Britain seeks ethical counter-terrorism strategy

Foreign Secretary William Hague will set out on Thursday how Britain intends to work more closely with other countries to tackle terrorism without compromising its own commitment to human rights.

In a speech in London, Hague will emphasise that Britain cannot protect its citizens from global organisations such as Al-Qaeda without sharing information with international partners, however questionable their methods.

His remarks come two weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron signed a new security deal with Algeria following the deadly attack by Islamists on a desert gas plant, in which six Britons and 31 other foreign hostages were killed.

"The bulk of our effort to counter terrorism is now overseas where terrorists train and plan for attacks in the West. We cannot do it without working with other countries," Hague will say, according to extracts released by his office.

Ideally Britain would obtain assurances about how those countries used its intelligence, including on how terror suspects would be treated.

But when this is not possible, Hague will propose a long-term effort to help these partners address what he calls their "weaknesses in the law enforcement, human rights and criminal justice architecture.

"We could disengage, but this would place our citizens at greater risk of terrorist attack, in the UK or overseas," Hague will say.

"Or we can choose to share our intelligence in a carefully controlled way while developing a more comprehensive approach to human rights adherence.

"This approach brings risk, but I am clear that the risks of the first option, of stepping back are greater still."

The British government has previously had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to terror suspects who claim that British officials colluded in their torture while they were held in countries such as Pakistan and Morocco.

And assurances obtained about human rights have not always stood up in court. British judges have thwarted numerous government attempts to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada on human rights concerns, despite assurances from Jordan that he would not face ill-treatment on his return.

Under the new strategy, Britain would identify countries where there is a serious and potentially long-running threat to its interests, such as that posed by elements in south Asia, Yemen, Somalia and north Africa.

It would sign long-term deals to help those countries improve their human rights compliance, including by helping local investigators build cases against terror suspects rather than relying on confessions, and supporting prosecutors and judges to ensure that suspects received a fair trial.