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Army Inspector's Review (Detainee Handling)

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2010

The Army Inspector, who reports directly to the Chief of the General Staff, was commissioned in early 2010 to conduct a review of the implementation of policy, training and conduct of detainee handling.

All three services and the Permanent Joint Headquarters are involved in detainee handling in the land environment, and the review has consulted widely. It has taken evidence from soldiers and commanders in Afghanistan as well as staff involved in policy, doctrine, legal advice, training and the planning and conduct of operations. The review team also included an independent member, Mark Lewindon, a retired senior civilian police officer with long experience of police detention practices and other relevant fields.

The Chief of the General Staff reported the outcome of the review to Ministers during the summer recess. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library. The key findings can be summarised as follows:

a. The review has found no evidence to suggest that pre-deployment and in-theatre training are failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling in accordance with applicable law and policy. The systems in place for current operations are essentially sound.

b. On operations in Afghanistan, commanders are clearly focused on this issue; governance mechanisms are in place to monitor and assure detainee handling processes, with any allegations of improper behaviour by UK forces (including complaints by the detainees themselves) being formally investigated.

c. Nevertheless, there are areas in which there is room for improvement. The review makes 31 tactical-level recommendations that should be seen as improvements to a system that is now working, rather than as mending a broken system. It also notes that a number of actions are already underway.

d. The review also recognises that further work is underway on more strategic issues:

i. The importance of a higher governance structure in the Ministry of Defence that holds to account those individuals responsible for delivering the various aspects of the detainee handling capability.

ii. The importance of embedding into every soldier, from his or her earliest training, an understanding of the principles and importance of detainee handling, so that it is seen as a mainstream military skill rather than a matter for specialists.

iii. That there may be benefit in greater transparency and impartial assurance open to public scrutiny, over and above the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Defence Board and Ministers have accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the review. Some of them have resource implications which will not be easy to absorb in the current financial climate, and which will have to be considered against competing priorities; we intend to press ahead with implementation of those recommendations without significant resource implications as quickly as we can.

The review has been disclosed to the Baha Mousa public inquiry, as part of the Department’s evidence for the final stages of the inquiry.