Examination of Witness (Questions 77-99)|
28 APRIL 2009
Q77 Chairman: This is a public evidence
session of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights as part
of its ongoing inquiry into the United Nations Convention Against
Torture and allegations of complicity in torture. Our first witness
today is Mr Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan.
I should start by reminding everyone of the remit of the Joint
Committee which relates only to human rights in the United Kingdom,
so it can focus only on the activities of UK agents who are subject
to the Human Rights Act and not on UK foreign policy or the activities
of foreign government or agents, except to the extent they are
strictly relevant to the issue of whether any UK personnel are
complicit in acts of torture. We also cannot investigate individual
cases. Those are the terms of reference set by the House of Commons
and House of Lords. Mr Murray, perhaps I may start by pinning
down what you do not allege before going on to what you do allege.
Your memorandum refers to torture in Uzbekistan in 2002/03. Was
all of that torture conducted by the Uzbek authorities or were
any UK or US agents directly involved?
Mr Murray: Torture was not conducted
by any UK authorities and to my knowledge no UK agents were ever
directly involved in committing torture. The US secret services,
in particular the CIA, had very close liaison with the Uzbek security
services of which I was well aware at the time. While I was ambassador
I was not aware of any direct US involvement in torture. My understanding
was that they were supplying questions and getting answers.
Q78 Chairman: These are American
Mr Murray: Yes. Earlier this year
I had the opportunity to meet a defector from the Uzbek security
services, a Major Yakubov, who has since been given political
asylum in this country. I had a long talk with him and he seemed
to me very credible. He alleges that he was present at an interrogation
session during which a prisoner was beaten and a CIA agent was
Q79 Chairman: But not a UK agent?
Mr Murray: No.
Q80 Chairman: It has been suggested
in relation to other cases involving detainees in Pakistan, Egypt
and Morocco that UK agents proposed questions to be asked under
torture. Do you have any evidence of that having happened in Uzbekistan?
Mr Murray: No. I do not believe
that we passed on questions for specific interrogees in Uzbekistan.
Q81 Chairman: There have also been
allegations in relation to Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco that UK
agents who interviewed suspected terrorists should or must have
known at some stage that those suspects had been tortured on a
previous occasion whilst in the custody of those countries. Is
there any evidence of that having happened in Uzbekistan?
Mr Murray: I do not quite understand
what you mean.
Q82 Chairman: For example, it has
been alleged that in Pakistan in some cases suspects have been
tortured by the Pakistan Secret Service and a British agent has
come along and asked questions afterwards and it should have been
obvious to that agent that the individual had been subjected to
Mr Murray: There were no UK agents
meeting interrogees in Uzbekistan at all as far as I am aware.
Q83 Chairman: There is no evidence
of any UK nationals or residents being tortured in Uzbekistan?
Mr Murray: Not that I believe,
Q84 Mr Sharma: When you raised concerns
with the FCO about the US intelligence material what response
did you expect?
Mr Murray: I genuinely believed
that there must be no awareness in Whitehall that the intelligence
it was receiving came from torture. That was the premise on which
I acted. Having first checked with the American embassy by my
deputy that it was credible that these intelligence reports came
from torture, I sent a telegram in late October or early November
2002 to say we were receiving intelligence from torture. I genuinely
expected to get a response that we must stop receiving that kind
of intelligence from Uzbekistan. I received no reply at all. Essentially,
I sent the same telegram again at the end of January/beginning
of February 2003 to which also I received no written reply, but
I was summoned back to a meeting in London in early March 2003
at which I was told it was better not to put these things in writing.
Q85 Mr Sharma: In your experience
had the US and UK authorities previously taken a strong line against
the use of information received under torture or had you not encountered
these issues before?
Mr Murray: I had encountered the
issue before when I was working in a unit known as the embargo
surveillance centre which was tasked with preventing Iraqi attempts
at weapons procurement in the run-up to the first Gulf War in
the early 1990s. Essentially, we were an intelligence analysis
unit and we commissioned action. The question of intelligence
that appeared to have been obtained from torture did arise on
that occasion. I had direct contact with the question then. As
a unit we reported directly to 10 Downing Street, not to a government
Q86 Chairman: Did you get the impression
that there was UK complicity on those occasions?
Mr Murray: On that occasion we
received a clear direction from the then prime minister, Mrs Thatcher,
now Baroness Thatcher, that we were not to use any intelligence
that might have come from torture.
Q87 Earl of Onslow: You tell us in
your memorandum that a senior FCO official told you that the Security
Services found the Uzbek intelligence received from the US to
be useful. What value do you think the Security Services got from
Mr Murray: I found that puzzling,
and I still do, because whenever the British embassy in Tashkent
was able to check it out separately against facts on the ground
it never once found any of piece of intelligence that was valuable.
None of it related to any security threat to the UK. It was virtually
all concerned with alleged Islamist threats to President Karimov
and his Government in Uzbekistan. It was quite easy to demonstrate
that much of it was simply untrue. To give one example of many,
there was intelligence pointing to a jihadist training camp in
the hills just over the Uzbek border.
Q88 Earl of Onslow: Was this in Afghanistan?
Mr Murray: It was in Tajikistan.
My defence attaché, Col Ridout, had been to the precise
co-ordinates given and knew for a fact that there was nothing
there. That was fairly typical. The intelligence material was
being provided to the CIA by the Uzbek Security Services and the
point of it was to exaggerate the threat to the Uzbek Government
in order to justify the alliance with the Karimov regime.
Q89 Earl of Onslow: Did you see the majority
of this intelligence so you could make that judgment?
Mr Murray: I believe I saw all
Q90 Earl of Onslow: In your view
it was basically totally useless and was concerned only with the
internal Uzbek situation?
Mr Murray: Over 95% of it was
concerned with internal Uzbek matters. Some of it was concerned
with other parts of central Asia. I recall one piece concerned
with Germany but none of it related to anything like a specific
terrorist plot in Europe.
Q91 Chairman: Did that information
come via the CIA or direct to you from the Uzbeks?
Mr Murray: It came to me from
MI6 which had received it from the CIA.
Q92 Chairman: I meant the embassy.
Mr Murray: It would go from the
American embassy in Tashkent back to Washington and from Washington
to London and then from London to me. That was the route by which
I received it.
Q93 Chairman: None of it came directly
to you or anyone in your embassy from the Uzbeks?
Mr Murray: No.
Q94 Earl of Onslow: It has been argued
that the UK intelligence-sharing agreement with the US will be
jeopardised if the UK asks not to receive evidence obtained from
torture. Does this suggest that ministers were reluctant to see
such material but did not want to risk arguing with the Americans?
Since you have just said that Lady Thatcher said under no circumstances
was torture to be used presumably the statement you have just
made blows a hole in the whole argument that we should be careful
about using information obtained by torture provided by the CIA.
Mr Murray: What happened was that
the policy had changed since Lady Thatcher's day. At the time
I drafted the first telegram, to which I referred in answer to
Mr Sharma, I did not know that the policy had changed since Lady
Thatcher's day. If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding
and other torture techniques released recently in the United States
on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive,
as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we
are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was just seeing a
little corner of it in Uzbekistan.
Q95 Earl of Onslow: Did you accept
the legal advice of Sir Michael Wood?
Mr Murray: No, sir.
Q96 Earl of Onslow: I would like
to pursue a little further the change of policy. If Lady Thatcher
said that the information was not to be accepted and Mr Major,
Mr Brown or Mr Blair said the same thing presumably the Americans
would react in the same way as they did Lady Thatcher.
Mr Murray: I do not think that
the particular material under consideration when we had guidance
from Number 10 not to look at anything that might come from torture
at the time of the first gulf crisis was actually CIA material.
It might have come from another source. But certainly in terms
of the change of policy I was very surprised. I had been on Foreign
Office human rights training courses and the fact we had a policy
not to accept intelligence from torture was what I would have
expected the position to be. When in early March 2003 at the meeting
in London I was told that it was now policy to accept intelligence
that may have been obtained from torture I was very surprised.
I was told directly that that had been agreed, that it had the
authority of the secretary of state and had come from Jack Straw.
I was told that he had discussed it at a meeting with Sir Richard
Dearlove. Whether or not there were other meetings about which
I was not told I am unaware, but I know for sure this was the
situation because I was querying it. I said this was not what
we did, it was not our policy and I was told directly that, yes,
it was the policy; I was a civil servant and I must follow it.
We will accept intelligence that has come from torture as long
as we do not do the torture ourselves in accordance with the legal
advice of Sir Michael Wood which I was given on that occasion.
Q97 Chairman: Was the policy of Mrs
Thatcher's government set out in writing in any document? Did
you see anything like that, or were you just informed that this
was how it was?
Mr Murray: I think we were just
informed that this was how it was. I do not recall seeing a policy
paper on the subject, but there is no doubt that that policy was
taught on Foreign Office human rights courses.
Q98 Mr Timpson: You have touched
on the legal advice from Sir Michael Wood, the senior legal adviser
at the Foreign Office. Your previous answers seem to suggest that
you do not agree with the advice that the receipt or possession
of information obtained under torture is not prohibited by UNCAT.
Did you accept that legal advice? If not, did you seek to challenge
Mr Murray: Sir Michael Wood was
the legal adviser which is a formal title. He had many other legal
advisers under him. Within government circles there is no internal
method of challenging the legal advice of the Foreign Office legal
adviser on a point of international law. In my telegram of 22
July 2004, which in my 20-year career was the last telegram I
sent before I was sacked, I challenged Sir Michael Wood's legal
advice. I pointed out that he appeared not to have taken into
account article 4 of the convention about complicity in torture.
I presume the Joint Committee is aware of the human rights situation
in Uzbekistan and the record of that country for torture. My team
investigated scores if not hundreds of cases involving the arrest
of political dissidents in Uzbekistan. I never came across a single
case in which torture was not credibly alleged. I do not believe
in shock value so I will not enumerate them, but the most horrible
forms of torture imaginable were always used against dissidents
under questioning in Uzbekistan. In early 2003 the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Theo van Boven, produced
an official UN report.
Q99 Chairman: We are straying a little
beyond our terms of reference.
Mr Murray: I do not agree.
1 Footnote from witness: This might be better expressed
as "in the Tien-Shan mountains". The borders in this
mountain area are very convoluted, to the extent of there being
at least five enclaves of countries within other countries. I
am afraid other than in the hilly border country, I cannot recall
the exact location-but that does not in my view invalidate the