THE British government must realise that it cannot continue to evade the issue of whether British citizens have been tortured in other countries with its knowledge and possibly its complicity. Piecemeal evidence has been accumulating for some time that elements of the Pakistan security services have been using torture to try get information wanted by Britain from suspected terrorists. Yesterday, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based non-government organisation, issued a report entitled: “Cruel Britannia; British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-Treatment of Terrorist Suspects.”

The report quotes evidence given by Pakistani intelligence agents who spoke of liaison with British officials who encouraged them to use “all means possible” to extract information from a man from Luton who had been beated, whipped, deprived of sleep and threatened with an electric drill. In another case a suspect was brought before a Pakistani court in such a poor condition that the judge ordered that he should be taken to hospital immediately. It would be wrong to think that concern over evidence of this kind is confined to “bleeding heart” sympathisers with British citizens who are subjected to such treatment despite their insistence that they are not terrorists. The list of people in Britain calling for an inquiry into these allegations is long, growing and includes many distinguished names. The Foreign Office's rote response that it does not condone torture is no longer sufficient.


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