Simon Freeman and Jenny Booth / The Times – 2006-01-12 23:06:17
LONDON (December 30, 2005) — Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan whose controversial memoirs have been blocked by the Foreign Office, today side-stepped the ban by releasing the most controversial documents in full on the internet.
The first contains the text of several outspoken letters (http://tinyurl.com/a5wtn) that Mr Murray sent back to London between 2002 and 2004, warning that information being passed on by the Uzbek security services had been obtained through torture.
The second allegedly contains the legal opinion (http://tinyurl.com/cmyww) from Sir Michael Wood, a legal adviser to the Foreign Office, who argues that the use of information extracted through torture does not violate the UN Convention Against Torture.
Although much of the material has been published by human rights organisations and elsewhere, Mr Murray’s web-based publication has placed the names, dates and times of discussions into the public domain.
In a statement accompanying the documents, Mr Murray states: “In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.
“After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position.
“This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition. It is irrefutable evidence of the Government’s use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.”
Without admitting that it uses torture evidence, the Government has however avoided denying that in certain circumstances it may make use of such information. The Foreign Office today refused to speculate on what uses Government and security services might make of intelligence.
On December 13 Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, pointed out in a newspaper article that: “[The Law Lords] held that there is an ‘exclusionary’ rule precluding the use of evidence obtained by torture. However, they held it was perfectly lawful for such information to be relied on operationally, and also by the Home Secretary in making executive decisions.
“The effect of this is simply to replace the Government’s own stated policy – namely not to rely on evidence believed to have been obtained by torture – by an ‘exclusionary’ rule of law. This welcome decision will not change the Government’s current practices, but it will provide greater legal authority.”
On December 8 seven Law Lords ruled that evidence obtained by torture could not be used in a British court.
Lord Bingham, the former lord chief justice, who headed the panel, said: “The issue is one of constitutional principle, whether evidence obtained by torturing another human being may lawfully be admitted against a party to proceedings in a British court, irrespective of where, or by whom, or on whose authority the torture was inflicted.
“To that question I would give a very clear negative answer.”
A Foreign Office spokesman told Times Online today: “Our position is that we unreservedly condemn the use of torture and work hard with our international partners to end its use.
“We don’t torture, including the security and intelligence agencies. Nor do we ask others to torture. And we are active in pressing others to live up to their international obligations.”
When information came in from abroad, said the spokesman, the intelligence agencies assessed its reliability. “Part of that process is looking at where it comes from. They look at the motivation of the source, and where a report derives from: and if a source is under detention, that, of course, is taken into account.
“The prime purpose for which we need intelligence is to avert threats to British citizens’ lives, where there’s information bearing on such threats it would be irresponsible to reject it out of hand.”
An Amnesty International spokesperson said today: “If the allegations that Mr Murray makes in his online publications are true, then they’re deeply disturbing.
“Under all circumstances the use of torture is unacceptable and evidence extracted under torture should never be allowed in court as the Law Lords stated earlier this month.”
Mr Murray, 47, served as the UK’s ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 until 2004, when he was removed from his post following his public criticism of its human rights record and Islam Karimov’s regime.
The Foreign Office said that he had been removed from his post for operational reasons after losing the confidence of senior officials.
He has detailed his subsequent campaign against the Government on his website (http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/) on which he describes himself as a prominent critic of Western policy in Uzbekistan.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.