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Judicial review bid to oust secret services judge

21 July 2010

Reprieve’s lawyers are concocting a case for judicial review against Sir Peter Gibson’s appointment as chairman of the torture inquiry.

The legal charity claims that as the intelligence services commissioner (ISC), Sir Peter’s impartiality is “fatally compromised”. Sir Peter was previously a lord justice of appeal, retiring in 2005.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: "Welcome though the torture inquiry is, the current structure is a sham. Sir Peter Gibson was perhaps the least appropriate judge to evaluate the security services.”

The former barrister was appointed to lead the inquiry by prime minister David Cameron, whose spokesman pledged Downing Street would stick by the decision.

Reprieve’s objection follows claims made by Labour leadership candidate David Milliband that Gibson has already conducted a ‘secret’ inquiry into allegations of misconduct by the security services at the request of the previous government.

Smith says that classified conclusions of this previous investigation, coupled with Gibson’s description of the security services as “trustworthy, conscientious and dependable” in his past three annual reports, will bias the forthcoming torture inquiry.

Reprieve argues that as the ISC throughout the period in which allegations of the UK’s complicity in the torture of terrorism suspects was made, Sir Peter would be better suited as a witness rather than a chairman.

“The government must get serious about learning the mistakes of the past, rather than try to cover them up, or we are in for a long, hot summer,” said Smith.

Reprieve’s lawyers have led several cases against the government’s treatment of terror suspects, including former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Omar Deghayes. It issued a quote from Mr Deghayes, saying: “The inquiry will send a great message to the world that Britain will not tolerate torture – but only if it is clearly separate from the secret services and gets to the real truth about what happened.

“We hope the inquiry helps everyone to come clean about their mistakes, so that we can put them behind us and look to a good future."

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