Britain may have broken international law on torture, ministers have been warned by the United Nations. Professor Manfred Nowak, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, has alerted ministers to a range of concerns, including claims that MI5 officers were complicit in the maltreatment of suspects.
The Austrian law professor warned that Britain has breached the UN convention on torture, and he revealed that he was organising a fact-finding mission to Pakistan, whose security services allegedly tortured terror suspects before the captives were questioned by British intelligence.
It is the first time the UN’s senior torture investigator has directly criticised a British government. Human rights groups said it was highly significant. Clare Algar, executive director of legal charity Reprieve, said: “This is a further significant embarrassment for the British government and reinforces the fact that we really need an independent review into what has been going on.”
Nowak appeared to criticise the foreign secretary, David Miliband, for blocking the release of US files allegedly confirming MI5 involvement in the torture of British resident Binyam Mohamed. Miliband said releasing the documents could do “real and significant damage” to British national security.
Nowak, who reports to the UN’s human rights council and the general assembly, said: “I am very concerned about the fact that allegations of torture actually cannot be really investigated because of the state secrecy privilege.