British agents 'not sufficiently well trained' for terror investigations

British intelligence personnel deployed to Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq were "not sufficiently well trained" on the Geneva Conventions, a report has found.

The report, by the Intelligence and Security Committee, follows an inquiry into the handling of detainees by UK intelligence personnel. The inquiry was launched after it was revealed that two British officers had interrogated an Iraqi, who had been shackled by US forces and was wearing a hood.

The report, entitled 'The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq', involved over 2000 interviews. The Committee reported that there were "fewer than 15" occasions when intelligence personnel reported actual or potential breaches of either UK policy or the Geneva Conventions relating to the conduct of interviews and the holding of detainees.

The report concluded that the intelligence personnel involved had not received sufficient training on the Geneva Conventions and they also did not know that certain interrogation techniques had been banned by the UK in 1972. The Committee said that this led to SIS officers in Iraq twice interviewing hooded detainees, which was a breach of UK policy.

However, the report said that apart from these "limited and specific breaches", there was no evidence that British intelligence officers had deliberately abused detainees.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairperson Ann Taylor said: "We note that the personnel were required to operate in very difficult and unusual conditions to fulfil the UK intelligence community's duty to obtain intelligence for the purpose of protecting the UK from terrorist threats. In the vast majority of cases the US authorities were holding the detainees and access to the detainees, together with additional intelligence provided by the US, was a privilege that the US could have withdrawn."

The Committee also revealed that the relevant Ministers had not been consulted before SIS and Security Service personnel had carried out interviews with detainees in Afghanistan and recommended that they should be consulted before any such interviews take place. It also reported that Ministers were also not informed in "a timely way" about reports from intelligence personnel regarding potential abuse of detainees and recommended that they should be informed immediately in the future.


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