Security

Dominic Raab denial over torture-risk decisions was wrong, officials admit


The former foreign secretary Dominic Raab approved a decision that risked someone being tortured despite denying this to a parliamentary committee, officials have admitted.

The disclosure comes in a report on Tuesday by the intelligence and security committee on international partnerships.

During a closed hearing in July 2021 of a committee that scrutinises the work of the security services, Raab denied that he had authorised actions where there was a real risk of torture.

In a transcript of the meeting, which has only now been released, Labour’s Diana Johnson asked him: “Have you authorised action where there is a real risk of torture?”

Raab replied: “No, [I] don’t do it.”

But the report says officials later told the committee that in fact on one occasion Raab had approved such action. They did not provide details.

In his evidence to the committee, Raab was asked about his “risk appetite” for approving actions that could involve torture.

He replied using an Indian restaurant analogy. He said: “On the sort of curry menu, I’m a spicy madras. So I want to be really careful, I want them to do their job, I want to be forward leaning, I want to be really gripping the opportunities, but I don’t want to take them into vindaloo or even phaal territory, which means that I risk repercussions the day after … Unless we’re doing things on a sustainable basis, we trip up.”

When Johnson tried to clarify whether Raab had ever authorised action that led to torture in his two years as foreign secretary, he replied: “Not without assurances that take the risk down … I think there are some moral red lines. I don’t trust torture from an efficacy point of view as well as finding it abhorrent from a moral point of view.”

The report says: “From this exchange, the committee understood that the then foreign secretary had never authorised conduct that had a real risk of torture or CIDT [cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment] without assurances having been received which would ‘take down the risk’ – ie reduce it to below the threshold of ‘real risk’. However, when the committee subsequently asked for further written evidence, it transpired that this was not the case.”

The committee noted that officials who accompanied Raab at the evidence session “did not clarify his evidence when given an opportunity to review the transcript following the evidence session”.

It said: “This is a matter of very serious concern … The authorising of action that carried a real risk of torture is surely so exceptional that it cannot have been merely overlooked or forgotten – yet the full picture was provided only after the committee pressed for further information.”

The human rights campaign group Reprieve said approving action that could lead to torture was unlawful and the report showed it was still happening.

Reprieve’s policy director, Dan Dolan, said: “We urgently need an outright ban on intelligence sharing where there is a real risk of torture, and ministers should consider the experience of torture survivors next time they compare torture tip-offs to ordering a spicy curry.”



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