A former British diplomat has said that the UK used intelligence gained by torture and that he was told the practice was sanctioned by the Foreign Office.
Craig Murray, 59, was the UK’s ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004.
He gave an interview to Mike Graham on talkRADIO to discuss a new report by the Intelligence and Security Committee which said MI5 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of suspected terror detainees after the 9/11 attacks.
There was no evidence in the report that British officers physically carried out torture.
“I came across it [torture] in Uzbekistan because the Americans were bringing people into Uzbekistan to be tortured,” said Murray.
‘I complained and was brought back to London’
Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary between 2001-2006
“MI6 was getting intelligence reports from the torture. I wrote letters and diplomatic telegrams to Jack Straw, saying this was happening and complaining about it and I was brought home to London.
“At a meeting, I was told Jack Straw had considered the matter with Sir Richard Dearlove [then-head of MI6] and the decision was that we should get intelligence from torture.”
He said he was then suspended on unrelated charges and paid off from his post.
“Immediately after being told that I shouldn’t protest, I found myself faced with 18 disciplinary charges, all completely unrelated, saying I was an alcoholic, I had girlfriends, I was giving visas in exchange for sex, all kinds of terrible accusations,” he said.
“After a formal investigation and being suspended for four months I was cleared of all charges.
“I did [think of suing] but I became extremely unwell as a result of the stress and was told I had pulmonary hypertension. I was told I had between six months and three years to live.
“That was in 2005, I’m doing much better than the doctors expected.
“They paid me off. I was given six years’ salary to resign.”
The Foreign Office said at the time they "reject any allegations that we victimise staff or treat them unsympathetically".
The charges were brought against Murray in 2003, and after all but two (regarding being drunk and misusing a company vehicle) were dropped, he returned to work in November of that year.
In January 2004 he was cleared of all charges. Allegations circulated at the time that US officials were unhappy with his outspokenness of the regime because the US’s position was to support the Uzbek government.
There was speculation that the US had put pressure on Downing Street to rein in his comments.
Bill Rammell, a then-Foreign Office minister, said at the time: "We endorse his comments about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan.
"Our concern about Islamic extremism... does not mean that we turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, or regard perceived threats to security as justification for imprisoning young men simply on religious grounds."
Murray also told talkRADIO that torture was ineffective.
“Torture doesn’t give you the truth. Everybody breaks under extreme torture, and what people will say is whatever the torturer wants to hear,” he said.
“There are many more effective ways of interrogating people. Interrogation is an art that people in the security services have trained in. Even the threat of torture could make someone say anything.”
The inquiry findings, which was published on Thursday June 28, found evidence that MI5 and MI6 knew about and funded rendition (sending suspects to be interrogated in countries with less stringent human rights laws) operations and were aware of torture by US officials.
Jack Straw was the Foreign Secretary at the time, and has said that the first he heard of alleged British collusion in torture was when the report was published.
“It’s remarkable that Jack Straw was claiming he didn’t know any of this was going on,” added Murray.
Denied access to witnesses
Dominic Grieve. Watch his full interview with Mike Graham above
Dominic Grieve is the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee that produced the report.
He told talkRADIO: “The purpose of the report is not to pass judgement but to identify where the system had failed.
“The report couldn’t be conclusive because we weren’t able to interview the witnesses we wanted to.
As we were asked to carry out this inquiry, I’m very sorry we were not able to access the resources we needed.”
Jack Straw unaware
He said that Downing Street would not let the inquiry interview people in more junior positions because select committees are usually only allowed access to senior figures.
Grieve also said there were “different systems” in place now than there were between 2001-2004, when some of the torture took place, “to ensure that, if cooperating with other intelligence agencies might lead to torture, there is an evaluation of whether that co-operation should continue or not.”
“I’m not going to say Jack Straw’s statement is a lie,” he continued.
“We have shown in our report that the UK was involved in rendition, we agreed to finance rendition operations and we were oblivious to the consequences.
“There is no documented evidence that ministers in that period were being made aware but there is evidence that one operation was signed off by the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. I can’t answer what he thought he was doing.”
The Foreign Office declined to comment on Murray's allegations but referred talkRADIO to the Prime Minister's written statement on the report, which states "The Government does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT) for any purpose."