Rendition/torture: UK Govt still in denial despite irrefutable evidence

The British Government continues to deny involvement in extraordinary rendition or knowledge of rendition/torture. Yet documents prove otherwise. Below we collate these documents and quote the relevant sections.

1. MI6 letter to Libyan intelligence

A letter from a senior MI6 official to Moussa Koussa (Libyan intelligence) congratulating him on the “safe arrival of Abu ‘Abd Allah Sadiq” and taking credit for Britain’s role in the rendition, which “was the least we could do for you and Libya.”

2. Miliband admits knowledge of rendition flights

In February 2008, Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that in 2002 two rendition flights, each carrying a detainee, stopped over in Diego Garcia.

3. 2007 Memo between UK and Libyan Governments re deportation (i.e. rendition)

Memorandum of Understanding between HMG and Government of Libya. Signed by Anthony Layden, HM Ambassador, British Embassy, Tripoli, and Abdulati Ibrahim al-Obidi, Acting Secretary for European Affairs, Secretariat for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, For the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

4. 2013 (Gibson) report on detainees

Quotes from the report (mostly a whitewash):

“The US programme of rendition of detainees to detention in Guantanamo, mostlyvia Bagram, began in early 2002. In some of the cases involving British nationals and UK residents, the documents indicate that the UK was given only very limited advance notice of the US’ intention to transfer the detainee to Guantanamo. However, in other instances, the documents indicate that there was an opportunity for the UK to object to US proposals to transfer British nationals or UK residents. The issue arises as to whether such opportunities were missed or deliberately not taken. If so, was this appropriate given the state of knowledge at the time? Documents received by the Inquiry also show that, in the early stages, the Government did not object to the transfer of British nationals and UK long term residents from Pakistan to the detention centres in Bagram and Guantanamo. This was, in part, because such transfers were not considered to be renditions but military transfers arising from armed conflict…

Against this background, the documents received by the Inquiry suggest that theAgencies may have been involved in some instances of US renditions or post-rendition liaison where the appropriateness of such involvement may be open to question and/or where the involvement may have lacked ministerial approval. The documents include instances where the UK may have had an obligation or right to object to the rendition but, at least on the face of the documents, no UK objection was raised. Some issues similar to these were raised in the Agencies’ own internal reviews. Based on the documents alone, the Inquiry identified three aspects related to this issue of whether Government became inappropriately involved in renditions, as set out in the next three paragraphs.”

5. Council of Europe report on secret detentions and rendition

This report contains a number of sections relating to the UK – for example…

“First we have received concurring confirmations that United States agencies have used the island territory of Diego Garcia, which is the international legal responsibility of the United Kingdom, in the “processing” of high-value detainees. It is true that the UK Government has readily accepted “assurances” from US authorities to the contrary, without ever independently or transparently inquiring into the allegations itself, or accounting to the public in a sufficiently thorough manner.”

6. European Parliament 2007 report on rendition

This 2007 European Parliament document reported on the precise number of CIA rendition flights passing through Europe as well as confirmation that the UK Government was not only fully aware of CIA rendition activities but had directly assisted specific rendition flights. The document also confirmed that according to a former UK ambassador the British Government knew and ‘tolerated’ [CIA] torture.

The European Parliament document, dated 14 February 2007, begins by providing some context… According to its own investigations the European Parliament assessed that “At least 1,245 flights operated by the CIA flew into European airspace or stopped over at European airports between the end of 2001 and the end of 2005”. MEPs referred to up to twenty-one cases of extraordinary rendition via Europe. The report noted that the renditions investigated by the committee “in the majority of cases involved incommunicado detention and torture” during interrogations, as was confirmed by the victims – or their lawyers – who gave testimony to the Parliament’s committee on CIA activities in Europe.

According to the testimony of former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, the exchange of intelligence obtained under torture by third countries’ secret services to the British intelligence services was a practice known and tolerated by the UK government

The document added that “In light of the available evidence…there is a “strong possibility that some European countries may have received […] information obtained under torture.””

A number of European governments were singled out in the document for their unwillingness to cooperate with the European Parliament’s investigations – these were: Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the UK. The document noted that illegal rendition or CIA flight cases involving rendition involved the following European countries: Germany, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bosnia and Romania.

With regard to the UK, the document noted the following:

  • that Margaret Beckett in a written response to a parliamentary question admitted that the UK Government had been aware of a secret CIA prison network before US President George W Bush acknowledged its existence in September 2006;
  • specific rendition cases involving the UK – in particular, the document condemned the extraordinary rendition of Bisher Al-Rawi, an Iraqi and Jamil El-Banna, a Jordanian and who were both UK residents. Both were arrested in Gambia in November 2002, turned over to US agents and then flown to Afghanistan and from there to Guantánamo;
  • that telegrams from MI5 were sent to “an unspecified foreign government, which were released to the Chairman of the APPG, Andrew Tyrie, suggest that the abduction of Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna was facilitated by partly erroneous information supplied by the UK security service [MI5]”;
  • the multiple extraordinary rendition of Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian citizen and resident of the UK, and who was held in at least two secret detention facilities, in addition to military prisons, and whose lawyer gave an account of “the most horrific torture endured by his client;
  • the former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, conceded in December 2005 that UK intelligence officials met Binyam Mohammed when he was arrested in Pakistan and that some of the questions put by Moroccan officials to Binyam Mohammed appear to have been inspired by information supplied by the UK;
  • the extraordinary rendition of UK citizen Martin Mubanga, who was arrested in Zambia in March 2002 and subsequently flown to Guantánamo;
  • where he was interrogated by British officials, then detained and tortured for four years without trial or any form of judicial assistance before being released without charge.

Finally the document noted “the 170 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at UK airports and expresses serious concern about the purpose of those flights which came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees. The document also noted that certain of these flights “have been shown to have been used by the CIA… for the extraordinary rendition of Bisher Al-Rawi, Jamil El-Banna, Abou Elkassim Britel, Khaled El-Masri, Binyam Mohammed, Abu Omar and Maher Arar and for the expulsion of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed El Zari.

For more on UK involvement in extraordinary rendition see:

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4 Responses to Rendition/torture: UK Govt still in denial despite irrefutable evidence

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