The Law Lords today unanimously ruled that information acquired by foreign states during torture cannot be used as evidence in British courts. Seven Law Lords allowed an appeal by eight detainees held without charge on suspicion of being involved in terrorism. Last year the Appeal Court had controversially voted two-to-one that if evidence obtained under torture by agents of another country was usable there was no obligation by the government to inquire about its origins.
Doctors for Human Rights and a coalition of 13 other human rights organisations had successfully petitioned the Law Lords to be allowed to intervene in the appeal. DHR chairman. Dr. Peter Hall, commenting on the ruling said “It is the absence of equivocation that is so striking. Those governments that have disputed the absoluteness of the prohibition against torture cannot ignore this essential message, emanating as it does from the highest court of law in the land.”
In a trenchant condemnation of torture, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the former Lord Chief Justice who headed the panel of seven Law Lords, said the English law had regarded "torture and its fruits" with abhorrence for over 500 years. In sanctioning the use of information gleaned by torture the Appeal Court was condoning violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Dr. Hall added “Not only did the Appeal Court decision encourage torturers in their work but, importantly, information obtained from torture is notoriously unreliable”