Monday, July 13, 2009

Foreign Office: Gay Iraqi Torture
Files FOI Update

The British Foreign Commonwealth Office sent me this update today, responding to my request for the pertinent info.

It's not clear to me if the FCO has located records responsive to my request, and needs more time to determine if release of the documents is okay under the sections of the UK FOI as cited, or, if the need to keep searching and the search needs more time because of the citations.

I wrote back to London, asking for clarification and await a reply. Not sure if I will ever get anything of value from the FCO, but I'm content knowing they are looking in their archive.

Will post any updates or replies I get from London between now and their next FOI-imposed deadline of August 12.

And since I believe it is never too early to ask for help, anyone know of a good FOI lawyer or expert in the UK who can answer a few questions I have about their FOI law? I need advice from someone very familiar with UK sunshine laws.

The email from the FCO:
Dear Mr Petrelis,


Thank you for your email of 12 June 2009 requesting “copies of all records held by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that relate to or identify homicides, assaults or other violent acts committed against homosexual persons in Iraq” since March 1 2003 to 12 June 2009.

The Freedom of Information Act obliges us to respond to requests promptly and in any case no later than 20 working days after receiving your request. However, when a qualified exemption applies to the information and the public interest test is engaged, the Act allows the time for response to be longer than 20 working days, and a full response must be provided within such time as is reasonable in all circumstances of the case.

We do, of course, aim to make all decisions within 20 working days, including in cases where we need to consider where the public interest lies in respect of a request for exempt information. In this case, however, we have not yet reached a decision on where the balance of the public interest lies.

Unfortunately we require further time in which to consider the public interest test under Section 27 (1) (a) (International Relations) and Section 40 (2) of the Act. In your case we estimate that it will take an additional 20 days to take a decision on where the balance of the public interest lies. Therefore, we plan to let you have a response by 10 August 2009.

If it appears that it will take longer than this to reach a conclusion, we will keep you informed. If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

[Deleted text about how to file a complaint, if I'm unhappy with the FCO.]

Yours sincerely,
Genevieve McCarthy
Middle East Group
Foreign and Commonwealth Office

No comments: