LONDON – Britain will release its secret rules governing the treatment of overseas detainees, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday in an attempt to bolster public faith after a string of allegations that the U.K. colluded in torture.
The government will also appoint a former senior judge to make sure they are being followed, he said.
Ethopian-born British resident Binyam Mohamed claimed after his release from Guantanamo Bay that MI5 domestic security agents had ignored his complaints about torture in Pakistan following his arrest there in 2002. He also alleged that British agents later supplied questions to interrogators who abused him in Morocco. A lawyer for Shaker Aamer, a Saudi resident of Britain, charged Wednesday that a British intelligence officer had watched Aamer being mistreated in Afghanistan in 2002.
The government has repeatedly denied that it has colluded in or condoned the torture of suspects overseas.
"I have faith in our security services, we must also ensure that the public have all the faith that is necessary in our security services and we condemn absolutely the use of torture," Brown told the House of Commons.
But lawmakers on the Intelligence and Security Committee — which oversees intelligence agencies — said Tuesday that they took the allegations of British complicity in torture seriously enough to send Brown proposals for reform.
Brown said he'll ask the committee to help revise the rules for spies and soldiers on handling detainees. He did not say how thoroughly the government expected to revise the rules.
Brown also said Peter Gibson, a former senior appeal court judge, would report to him annually on the handling of detainees, though it had not decided whether the reports will be made public.
Brown's spokesman, Michael Ellam, said the updated guidelines would be made public in May.
"It is right that Parliament and the public should know what those involved in interviewing detainees can and cannot do," Brown said. "This will put beyond doubt the terms under which our agencies and service personnel operate."
Brown has rejected a request by opposition parties to authorize a judge-led inquiry into Britain's role in the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and alleged mistreatment of suspected terrorists.
Opposition Conservative Party lawmaker David Davis said Brown's efforts didn't go far enough and only an independent inquiry could properly investigate the conduct of spy agencies and soldiers.
Legal charity Reprieve, which represents Mohamed and many current Guantanamo Bay detainees, criticized Brown's plan.
"This is a textbook case of the fox guarding the hen house," said Reprieve's executive director Clare Algar. "The prime minister is trusting people who are deeply involved in the security services to check their conduct. It is ludicrous to suggest that this will restore public confidence."