“WE conclude that the government has a duty to enquire into the allegations of extraordinary rendition and black sites under the Convention against Torture, and to make clear to the USA that any extraordinary rendition to states where suspects may be tortured is completely unacceptable’, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee reported yesterday.
It added that ‘Only after prodding by European Union member states has the government made any effort to investigate serious allegations.’
The Council of Europe is in fact examining claims about secret flights and prisons known as ‘black sites’, situated in EU states such as Poland and Romania, Italy, Belgium and also Bosnia and Georgia. Some other EU states have launched judge-led inquiries. Meanwhile Blair and Straw have heard and seen nothing.
The foreign affairs committee report comes after the National Air Traffic Service (air traffic controllers) revealed that two US planes chartered by the CIA to carry terror suspects have crossed British airspace about 200 times in the last five years.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that people should not assume the US was doing so without asking permission, adding ‘There is no evidence, that I know of, that any of these 200 flights have been used for rendition.
‘I’m not prepared simply to assume that they are breaching that undertaking, I think it would be strange if they did,’ he continued.
Foreign Minister Straw is still insisting that in the period since 2001 there have been four requests from the US to carry suspects over British territory and that two of these were refused.
The MPs’ committee also raised concerns about other aspects of British anti-terrorism measures.
The government is trying to sign agreements so they can return foreign suspects to their countries of origin without fear they will be tortured.
The MPs warn that these ‘memoranda of understanding’ should only be used once ministers are sure they can monitor whether they are working. The agreements ‘must not be used as a fig leaf to disguise the real risk of torture for deported terrorism suspects’, they say.
The government is well aware that these countries practice torture, and that the US has been transporting suspects to foreign countries to be tortured for the purpose of gaining information for years.
In fact, the government, some time ago, took a decision to use information that was acquired in the torture chamber.
Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan before he was sacked for demanding that the sending of suspects to Uzbekistan to be tortured, be stopped.
Craig Murray writes: ‘In March 2003 I was summoned back to London from Tashkent specifically for a meeting at which I was told to stop protesting. I was told specifically that it was perfectly legal for us to obtain and to use intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers.
‘After this meeting Sir Michael Wood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s legal adviser, wrote to confirm this position. This minute from Michael Wood is perhaps the most important document that has become public about extraordinary rendition.
‘It is irrefutable evidence of the government’s use of torture material, and that I was attempting to stop it. It is no wonder that the government is trying to suppress this.’
Bush, Blair and Straw are up to their necks in the business of ‘extraordinary rendition’. It is high time that they were brought to trial for their complicity with the torturers.