Millions to be paid in compensation for prisoners who alleged UK complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition
The government will announce today that it will pay millions of pounds in compensation to former Guantánamo Bay detainees following weeks of negotiations between lawyers for the government and the former prisoners.
Ministers appear to have decided on the advice of the security services that they could not afford to risk the exposure of thousands of documents in open court on how Britain co-operated with the US on the so-called extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects.
Some of the suspects, who were taken for interrogation in secret locations around the world before ending up in Guantánamo, were alleged to have links with the Afghan Taliban.
According to ITN, the high court has been notified that a settlement had been reached between the lawyers. The exact amounts may never be known, but at least one detainee is understood to be in line for a payout of more than £1m.
The government will announce simply that the payments are to be made and that it is in the national interest that the cases are not brought to court so as to protect the security services’ methods from scrutiny.
Two independent QCs have been acting as arbiters between the two sides. One allegation is that the British government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantánamo Bay but failed to prevent it.
David Cameron paved the way for the payments by sanctioning the negotiations in July.
Cameron acted after the high court ruled confidential documents would have to be released in any court hearings. Vetting such documents, possibly as many as 50,000, would take huge amounts of time for MI5 and MI6, Cameron said.
Today’s payments will clear the way for an independent inquiry into British involvement in torture and the degree to which MI6 knowingly took information extracted by torture by the Americans.
Cameron announced in July he believed there was no alternative but to roll up the many existing civil claims against the government taken by the alleged victims of torture.
He said the settlement of the claims would allow an inquiry to be undertaken, chaired Sir Peter Gibson, former senior court of appeal judge and currently the statutory commissioner for the intelligence services. The inquiry, ranging over alleged British complicity in torture, is due to report by the end of next year.