Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture

Talk November 15, 2012 7:00 PM

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From the Second World War to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland award-winning investigative journalist Ian Cobain‘s new book Cruel Britannia explores Britain’s role in the development and use of torture. Drawing on previously unseen official documents, and the accounts of witnesses, victims and experts Cobain reveals some stark truths.

With the High Court judgement that a group of Kenyans can claim damages from British government for abuses suffered during the Mau Mau rebellion, and on-going enquiries into the abuse of terror suspects, we will be joined by Cobain and a panel of experts to discuss Britain’s record on involvement in the use of torture. We will be asking whether it is to time to challenge the official line that the UK does not ‘participate in, solicit, encourage or condone’ torture.

Chaired by Humphrey Hawksley, leading BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator on world affairs.


Ian Cobain, an investigative journalist with the Guardian and author of Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture. His inquiries into the UK’s involvement with torture since 9/11 have won the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, and has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. He has also won several Amnesty International Media awards and a Liberty award.

Clive Baldwin, the Senior Legal Advisor for the Legal and Policy office at Human Rights Watch, where he has been working on issues of international law since 2007. His areas of focus include the Middle East, north and west Africa and discrimination law.

Rt Hon David Davis MP, Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden since 1997 and former Shadow Home Secretary. As a Minister in the last Conservative government he served in the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office. In the latter, he was responsible for Security Policy and European Policy, overseeing the majority of the country’s international negotiations.

Dr Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on state violence and terrorism, particularly by liberal democratic states. Her current project, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, focuses on analysing the global system of rendition and secret detention. She is the author of State Terrorism and Neoliberalism, and she has published widely on state violence and torture.