A human rights watchdog said today that it has launched judicial review proceedings against the government, alleging that newly published guidance on torture is illegal.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has lodged papers at the High Court over concerns that the guidance, which is issued to secret service personnel, breaches international law.
The government insists its new guidance is "entirely consistent" with domestic and international obligations, but human rights groups have expressed concern that it actually provides a "green light" for torture.
The EHRC has the power to institute judicial review proceedings if it believes a public authority has breached its duties and did so just within the three-month deadline.
The guidance was drawn up following numerous allegations of British complicity in the torture of terror suspects overseas.
It was published in July alongside the announcement of a judge-led inquiry into the allegations - including those of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.
Mr Mohamed alleges that the British secret service was complicit in his torture at the hands of Moroccan interrogators.
The guidance sets out steps intelligence officers must take before they interview detainees held by authorities overseas, seek intelligence gained from them or solicit an overseas detention.
It states that they cannot proceed if they "know or believe" torture will take place.
But the document does allow them to go ahead even if they know there is a "serious risk of torture" so long as they have consulted senior colleagues or, ultimately, ministers.
Article 2 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" and that "an order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture."
The EHRC called for an outright ban on proceeding in the knowledge of a "serious or real risk of torture" and clearer guidance on the factors to be considered by ministers making a decision.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Official inflation figures understate the real extent of rising costs, but even the government's own CPI scheme lays bare the ongoing misery for working people and those dependent on benefits.
The Con-Dems have had it their way too long. We have to turn this country around
How high-quality primary schooling could help solve global poverty