A British human rights parliamentary committee has called for an independent inquiry to be established to examine claims that British intelligence was complicit in acts of torture on terrorism suspects during the so-called Rendition program under the Bush administration. Government ministers and the head of Britain's domestic intelligence service have refused to come forward and testify in person at parliamentary hearings on the subject.
The cross-party Joint Human Rights Committee has concluded that only a full independent inquiry into allegations of British complicity in torture can address what it calls "woefully deficient" government accountability for its intelligence services in the matter.
In a strongly-worded report, the committee says ministers in Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government are "determined to avoid parliamentary scrutiny."
A handful of former Guantanamo detainees have come forward with allegations that British intelligence personnel where present at various stages of the Rendition process when it is alleged that suspects were tortured.
Committee chairman Andrew Dismore says the facts must be uncovered.
"We have a whole series of allegations which it is important to recognize have not been tested by an inquiry or by the courts," he said. "But if those allegations are true, then that would amount to complicity."
William Hague, the foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative party says the country deserves nothing less than the truth.
"I think it is unfortunate that neither the foreign secretary nor the home secretary were prepared to give oral evidence to this committee," said Hague. "And we need to have a thorough investigation into these allegations in the future because we have to be very clear that torture or complicity in torture is unacceptable, it is immoral and of course it is counter-productive because it only inflames our opponents rather that defeats them."
Hague says he would not rule out such an inquiry but he says that would be determined after a number of individual cases now moving through the courts involving abuse allegations have concluded.
And despite the gravity of those allegations, Home Office Minister David Hanson sees no need to hold any kind of independent investigation regarding what the government may or may not have known.
"I do not believe that there needs to be an inquiry in these matters although obviously in due course the government will respond to the particular recommendations made by the committee today," said Hanson.
Currently seven former Guantanamo detainees are suing the British government for aiding and abetting the Rendition process, for unlawful imprisonment and for torture.
Government officials maintain Britain does not condone or participate in such acts.