Making the transition from Government to opposition requires that Labour recognises as quickly as possible where it went wrong, on what issues it was most decisively rejected, and seeks to distance itself from its past. Civil liberties is a prime example, and one on which the Tory performance largely bears out its opposition stance: Labour has already begun to move — by accepting the abandonment of ID Cards, for example, and abstaining yesterday on the extension of 28 day detention. But the paper trail on torture revealed in today’s Guardian focuses on what may well prove the biggest stain on Labour’s record – its involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens. And the latest evidence is enough for Jack Straw to go from Labour’s front bench without delay, and before the Gibson inquiry gets under way.
The latest evidence demonstrates that:
- Illegal rendition to Guantánamo was the preferred option of the Foreign Office, under Jack Straw, for UK nationals held by US forces in Afghanistan;
- Jack Straw did not wish to see the British nationals moved from Afghanistan before they could be “interrogated”.
In relation to one detainee, Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born British resident, the Guardian reveals his MI5 interogators’ reaction:
The MI5 interrogators were clearly aware of the manner in which Deghayes was being mistreated. Their only emotional reaction to his plight appears to have been disgust at his physical condition. Considering him to be insufficiently forthcoming, they decided to abandon him to further treatment at US hands.
Many party members will have been unconvinced by David Miliband’s repetition of Labour Government policy on torture in response to questions about their actions. The truth, we hope, will be revealed by the Gibson Inquiry and we shall have deal with the consequences then. We have previously made clear our concern about the decision to minimise changes in the responsibilities on Labour’s front bench but it is already clear here that Jack Straw must take responsibility for what happened on his watch. He should speak for Labour no longer.