Theresa May has warned that the UK will not condone torture of detainees “in any way” - just hours after it emerged that President Donald Trump plans a review of US interrogation policies.
In a potential flashpoint ahead of their first meeting in Washington on Friday, the Prime Minister stressed that Britain’s opposition to “inhumane” treatment of prisoners and others would not change.
A new Presidential executive order, leaked to the Washington Post, calls for a policy review that could authorize the CIA to reopen “black site” prisons overseas and restart an interrogation programme dismantled in 2009 after torture claims.
Trump said on the campaign trail that he hopes to bring back ‘waterboarding’ and a “hell of a lot worse”, although he had claimed his new Defence Secretary James Mattis had convinced him to tone down his position since.
When asked about the order, No.10 Downing Street underlined that the PM stood firmly against torture and stressed she would “differ in approach and view with President Trump” on such issues.
The PM’s official spokeswoman said: “We don’t condone torture, inhumane treatment in any form.
“There was consolidated updated [UK] guidance published in 2010 on this. And that’s very clearly the UK’s position and there are going to be issues where we differ in approach and view with President Trump.
“The benefits of a close and effective relationship will be that we will be able to raise these frankly and directly with the President.”
Asked if May would directly raise the issue in her face-to-face talks with the President on Friday, she replied: “I’m not going to get into a long list of what the PM will or won’t raise in her first bilateral meeting with the President.
“What is important is that the UK is very clear in the approach that we take to torture and there is no shift in our position.”
Before the new executive order was leaked, May was urged by senior Tory MP Andrew Tyrie to distance Britain from any attempt by the US to reintroduce ‘rendition’ of detainees overseas.
During Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons, Tyrie suggested that the reintroduction of torture techniques would compromise UK-US intelligence partnerships.
May told him: “We have a very clear position on torture. We do not sanction torture, we do not get involved in that. And that will continue to be our position.”
The new Presidential order would reverse a 2009 decision by then-President Barack Obama to end the CIA programme and would reinstate President George W. Bush’s modified version of a “rendition and interrogation” system.
It is unclear if Trump will sign the draft order, particularly given the controversy among the military over the use of ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques.
His nominee for CIA Director, Congressman Mike Pompeo, said this week that he was open to a review “if experts believed current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country”.
But Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said that Trump “can sign whatever executive orders he likes”. “But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”