Hague To Announce Human Rights Programme As Part Of Al Qaeda Battle

Britain is to mount an ambitious programme of support for human rights amongst key allies as part of the ongoing war on terrorism, Foreign Secretary William Hague will announce.

The "justice and human rights partnerships" initiative is intended to enable the UK to share intelligence relating to terrorist activity in countries with suspect human rights records without it leading to the torture or abuse of suspects.

They will include assistance to overseas security services and investigators to enable them to build cases based on evidence rather than confession and to improve their compliance with the law and human rights.

In a keynote speech to the Royal United Services Institute in London, Mr Hague will acknowledge that the plan carries risks, but he will argue they are outweighed by the dangers of terrorist attacks on British citizens if the government fails to engage with such countries.

The initiative comes after six British nationals were killed last month when Islamist militants overran a BP-run gas plant in Algeria.

But it is likely to prove controversial with civil rights organisations.

The government has previously had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to suspects such as Binyam Mohamed over claims that the British intelligence and security services colluded in their torture while they were detained in countries like Pakistan and Morocco.

Ministers have also so far failed in their long-running battle to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada to stand trial in Jordan on terrorist charges, despite assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence obtained by torture.

In his speech, Mr Hague will emphasise that the main terrorist threat to the UK still comes from al Qaida and its "ideology of violent global jihad" and that consequently the bulk of Britain's counter-terrorism effort is concentrated overseas in countries where extremists train and plan their attacks.

"When we detect a terrorist plot originating in a third country, we want to be in a position to share information to stop that planning, and do it in a way that leads to the arrest, investigation and prosecution of the individuals concerned in accordance with our own legal obligations, and with their human rights respected at every stage," he will say.

"In many cases, we are able to obtain credible assurances from our foreign partners... that give us the safeguards we need and the confidence that we can share information in this way.

"Where this is not the case, we face a stark choice.

"We could disengage, but this would place our citizens at greater risk of terrorist attack, in the UK or overseas.

"Or we can choose to share our intelligence in a carefully controlled way while developing a more comprehensive approach to human rights adherence.

"This approach brings risk, but I am clear that the risks of the first option, of stepping back are greater still.

"How we go about this will have to differ country by country.

"But we will seek justice and human rights partnerships with countries where there is both a threat to the United Kingdom's security, and weaknesses in the law enforcement, human rights and criminal justice architecture."

While Mr Hague will stress that such an approach is not new, he will say the programme represents the first attempt to build a "systematic framework" for such co-operation.

Officials said they would only apply where there was a "serious and potentially long-running threat" to the UK or its interests overseas, such as that emanating from terrorist networks in South Asia, Yemen, Somalia and other parts of Africa.

Every aspect of the work conducted under the programme would require ministerial oversight.

"This is a framework... to ensure that our counter-terrorism work supports justice and the rule of law as well as our security, with the goal of creating the long-term conditions for better observance of human rights in countries that have a poor record and where the threat from terrorism is strong," Mr Hague will say.