UK Torture Complicity Inquiry 'Scrapped' After Criminal Probe Launched Into Libya Claims

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The long-awaited inquiry into British complicity in torture is to be scrapped following the launch of fresh criminal investigations into claims of ill-treatment in Libya, the Justice Secretary has said.

Ken Clarke told MPs on Wednesday afternoon there "now appears no prospect of the Gibson Inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future".

However he said the government still intends to hold "an independent, judge-led inquiry once all police investigations have concluded."

Clarke said: "We remain committed to drawing a line under these issues.

"However, these further investigations may take some considerable time to conclude. The government fully intends to hold a judge-led inquiry into these issues once it is possible to do so and all related police investigations have been concluded.

"But there now appears no prospect of the Gibson Inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future.

"So, following consultation with Sir Peter Gibson, the inquiry chair, we have decided to bring the work of this inquiry to a conclusion."

He went on: "We will continue to keep parliament fully informed of progress.

"The Government fully intends to hold an independent, judge-led inquiry, once all police investigations have concluded, to establish the full facts and draw a line under these issues."

Clarke said it would have been unfair to the inquiry team to continue keeping it on hold for an "as yet unknown period of time" while the Libyan investigations were carried out.

Scotland Yard took three years looking into the cases of Guantanamo Bay detainees, he said.

The detainee inquiry had already been widely criticised for lacking "credibility or transparency", with human rights groups and lawyers for detainees refusing to take part.

Campaigners, who are angry at the limits on the inquiry's powers and the fact that the final decision on whether material can be made public rested with the government, also claimed the police investigation was being "hobbled" by political pressure for a "sham" inquiry.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: "We welcome the sensible decision to end the embarrassment of a so-called inquiry in which neither torture victims nor human rights campaigners had faith.

"Let's remember that it was lawyers, journalists and campaigners that uncovered the Libyan rendition files now to be properly investigated by police and prosecutors.

"Such revelations should lead to more scrutiny of the secret state, not the shutting-down of open justice as proposed in the government's current Green Paper."

It comes after police and prosecutors said last week that allegations from two Libyan rebels, Sami al Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhadj, that British spies were complicit in their rendition and ill-treatment in 2004 were so serious that they must be investigated immediately.