Allegations of UK Complicity in Torture - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by Craig Murray

  My name is Craig Murray. I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004.

I had joined the Diplomatic Service in 1984 and became a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Senior Management Structure in 1998. I had held a variety of posts including Deputy High Commissioner, Accra (1998-2001) and First Secretary Political and Economic, Warsaw (1994-97).

  I had also been head of the FCO section of the Embargo Surveillance Sector leading up to and during the first Gulf War, monitoring and interdicting Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement. In consequence I had obtained security clearances even higher than those routinely given to all executive members of the Diplomatic Service. I had extensive experience throughout my career of dealing with intelligence material and the intelligence services.

  It was made plain to me in briefing in London before initial departure for Tashkent that Uzbekistan was a key ally in the War on Terror and to be treated as such. It was particularly important to the USA who valued its security cooperation and its provision of a major US airbase at Karshi-Khanabad.

  As Ambassador in Uzbekistan I regularly received intelligence material released by MI6. This material was given to MI6 by the CIA, mostly originating from their Tashkent station. It was normally issued to me telegraphically by MI6 at the same time it was issued to UK ministers and officials in London.

  From the start of my time as Ambassador, I was also receiving a continual stream of information about widespread torture of suspected political or religious dissidents in Tashkent. This was taking place on a phenomenal scale. In early 2003 a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, in the preparation of which my Embassy much assisted, described torture in Uzbekistan as "routine and systemic".

  The horror and staggering extent of torture in Uzbekistan is well documented and I have been informed by the Chair is not in the purview of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. But what follows goes directly to the question of UK non-compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture.

  In gathering evidence from victims of torture, we built a consistent picture of the narrative which the torturers were seeking to validate from confessions under torture. They sought confessions which linked domestic opposition to President Karimov with Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden; they sought to exaggerate the strength of the terrorist threat in Central Asia. People arrested on all sorts of pretexts—(I recall one involved in a dispute over ownership of a garage plot) suddenly found themselves tortured into confessing to membership of both the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Al-Qaida. They were also made to confess to attending Al-Qaida training camps in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. In an echo of Stalin's security services from which the Uzbek SNB had an unbroken institutional descent, they were given long lists of names of people they had to confess were also in IMU and Al-Qaida.

  It became obvious to me after just a few weeks that the CIA material from Uzbekistan was giving precisely the same narrative being extracted by the Uzbek torturers—and that the CIA "intelligence" was giving information far from the truth.

  I was immediately concerned that British ministers and officials were being unknowingly exposed to material derived from torture, and therefore were acting illegally.

  I asked my Deputy, Karen Moran, to call on a senior member of the US Embassy and tell him I was concerned that the CIA intelligence was probably derived from torture by the Uzbek security services. Karen Moran reported back to me that the US Embassy had replied that it probably did come from torture, but in the War on Terror they did not view that as a problem.

  In October or November of 2002 I sent the FCO a telegram classified Top Secret and addressed specifically for the attention of the Secretary of State. I argued that to receive this material from torture was:

    —  Illegal—Plainly it was a breach of UNCAT;

    —  Immoral—To support such despicable practices undermined our claims to civilisation; and

    —  Impractical—The material was designed to paint a false picture.

  I received no reply, so in January or February of 2003 I sent a further telegram repeating the same points.

  I was summoned back to a meeting which was held in the FCO on 7 or 8 March 2003. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe; Matthew Kydd, Head Permanent Under Secretary's Department; Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser.

  At the start of the meeting Linda Duffield told me that Sir Michael Jay, Permanent Under Secretary, wished me to know that my telegrams were unwise and that these sensitive questions were best not discussed on paper.

  In the meeting, Sir Michael Wood told me that it was not illegal for us to obtain intelligence from torture, provided someone else did the torture. He added "I make no comment on the moral aspect" and appeared to me to be signalling disapproval.

  Matthew Kydd told me that the Security Services considered the material from the CIA in Tashkent useful. He also argued that, as the final intelligence report issued by the security services excludes the name of the detainee interrogated, it is not possible to prove that torture was involved in any particular piece of intelligence.

  Linda Duffield told me that Jack Straw had discussed this question with Sir Richard Dearlove and the policy was that, in the War on Terror, we should not question such intelligence. The UK/US intelligence sharing agreement stipulated that all intelligence must be shared. Influential figures in the US believed this was an unfair agreement as we received much more from the US than they did from us. It was not in our interest to abandon the universality principle and refuse categories of CIA material.

  It was agreed that Sir Michael Wood's view that it was not illegal to receive intelligence from torture would be put in writing. I attach a copy of his letter of 13 March 2003.

  This meeting was minuted. I have seen the minute, which is classified Top Secret. On the top copy is a manuscript note giving Jack Straw's views. It is entirely plain from this note that this torture policy was under his personal direction.

  I returned to Tashkent. In May 2003, during a visit to Tashkent by my line manager, Simon Butt, he told me I was viewed in London as "unpatriotic". This hurt me enormously as I had served my country with great enthusiasm for 19 years. Every traceable generation of my family had served in the British military. I felt it was my country which had abandoned the principles I had believed I was working for.

  In August 2003 the FCO attempted to frame me on 18 false charges of gross misconduct and demanded my resignation. I refused and after a sickening fight was acquitted and returned to Tashkent in January 2004.

  While in London in approximately May 2004 for a medical check-up I was informed by Jon Benjamin, Head of Human Rights Policy Department FCO, that there had just been a senior level interdepartmental FCO meeting on receiving intelligence from torture and he had been surprised I was not invited. The policy that we would accept this intelligence had been re-affirmed.

  On return to Tashkent I sent on 22 July 2004 yet a further telegram arguing we should not obtain intelligence from torture. I kept an electronic copy and this is attached.

  I specifically argued (paras 16 to 18) that we were in breach of Article 4 of UNCAT which concerns complicity with torture. I also referred to the US transport of detainees to Uzbekistan (para 18). I referred to the London interdepartmental meeting (paras 8 to 9).

  I received a brief and extraordinary reply to the effect that there had been no such meeting in the last two weeks. I knew it had been before then and had not referred to a date in my telegram.

  This telegram, which was sparked by my anger at the lies in our public position on torture after Abu Ghraib became public, resulted in my dismissal as ambassador when it was leaked to the Financial Times (not by me).

CONCLUSIONS

  1.  All CIA intelligence is received by the UK. MI6 has seen the fruits of every CIA waterboarding session and rendition torture. Very many will have been passed on to ministers and senior officials.

2.  Ministers decided the principle of the universality of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement was more important than any aversion to torture. We could not refuse this material from the CIA without compromising the basic agreement.

  3.  Ministers did know they were receiving intelligence from torture. There was a definite, internally promulgated and legally cleared policy to receive intelligence from torture, directed in person by Jack Straw.

  4.  The format of intelligence reports contains a deliberate double blind; by excluding the name of the detainee from the final report, Ministers can state they have never knowingly seen intelligence from torture.

  5.  The government's public lines that we do not condone, endorse, encourage or instigate torture, even that we condemn it and work against it, do not answer the key question:

Are we prepared on a regular basis to receive intelligence from torture?

  That question is capable of a one word answer. The true answer is yes. The government refuses to give a straight answer.

13 March 2009

Annex A

Letter from Sir Michael Wood, Legal Adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Linda Duffield, Director, Wider Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, dated 13 March 2003

UZBEKISTAN: INTELLIGENCE POSSIBLY OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE

  1.  Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under UN Convention on Torture or receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2.  I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

    "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

  3.  This does not create any offence. I would suspect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.

Annex B

Telegram from Craig Murray, HM Ambassador, Tashkent, to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, dated July 2004

SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE

SUMMARY

  1.  We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.

2.  I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.

3.  We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.

DETAIL

  4.  In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

5.  I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.

  6.  On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.

  7.  Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.

  8.  I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.

  9.  I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true—the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.

  10.  I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in an organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact.

  11.  The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;

    "The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights." While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.

  12.  On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:

    "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

  13.  Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless—we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

  14.  I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. 16 months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.

  15.  At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

  16.  I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.

  17.  The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.

  18.  It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.

  19.  This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.





 
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