Guantanamo torture inquiry may have implications for Northern Ireland

The imminent announcement of a judge led inquiry into allegations of torture involving MI5 complicity is being welcomed by civil liberties groups in Britain.

The inquiry is expected to offer compensation in cases, where necessary, and is likely to be held in private. A judge-led inquiry or commission may have the advantage of bringing together the 13 separate compensation cases currently going through the courts.

Those cases are leading to complex demands for the disclosure of documents that the intelligence services may not welcome, and are finding difficult to control. Some of the litigants have demanded an inquiry as part of their civil claims.

Interested groups in NI will note the inquiry’s composition and terms of reference. Unlike the Cory inquiries on collusion, it will be closed to the public, but will be treated like a class action for compensation cases. For those looking for early closure on the Troubles, this decision could complicate the post-Saville picture.  If an inquiry is to be held over alleged torture post 9/11, why not for the many victims in NI whose cases have not been solved or might deserve to be reopened?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London