US Torture Flights – Questions Go Unanswered

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LIBERTY has written letters to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and to British police chiefs about the US’ ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme and the use of British airports to facilitate it.

Now MPs and others are demanding answers.

The airports allegedly involved include Biggin Hill in Kent, Birmingham, Bournemouth, RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, Farnborough, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Mildenhall in Suffolk, RAF Northolt in north London, Stansted and Prestwick.

There is growing pressure from MPs for ministers to shed light on the large numbers of flights in and out of these airports by unmarked US aircraft believed to be operated by the CIA for transporting ‘ghost prisoners’ to parts of the world where they can be tortured with no questions asked, and with hardly any prying eyes.

A new all-party group on ‘extraordinary renditions’ has begun meeting and it has accused the government of evading key questions on the issue.

However, even Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been mandated to write to the US on behalf of the EU, asking about the location of CIA ‘secret prisons’, some of which are believed to be sited in Eastern European states which have just joined the EU.

The group of MPs taking up this issue have told the BBC that they are very worried that the UK may be condoning torture.

They have accused the Foreign Office, led by Jack Straw, of producing ‘obfuscation and carefully worded replies’ to their questions saying that records of transit applications had not been kept.

They added: ‘We are trying to win over the hearts and minds of millions of people in the Middle East, saying that we have got a better way of doing things and at the same time we seem to be sinking to the very standards that we have been criticising.’

The US government however insists that its laws have not been broken and has refused to confirm or deny the existence of ‘secret prisons’ in third countries.

The fact is that the Foreign Office and Foreign Minister Jack Straw can shed a lot of light on these questions, since they know that the US has been transporting and torturing ‘terrorist suspects’ at secret prisons for a number of years.

There is the case of the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray who was sacked by Straw and the Foreign Office after he complained about the torture regime that existed in that country to service US prisoners.

His complaint was that US planes were bringing people into that country specifically to be tortured. One of the tortures was immersion in boiling water.

His complaints about these activities got him the sack. There is no reason to believe that these flights to Uzbekistan carrying people to be tortured have been discontinued.

There have also been the British judicial rulings, very much supported by the government, that evidence obtained under torture can be used in the courts of this country.

Then there are the agreements that Britain is negotiating with states such as Jordan where torture is the rule, that terrorist suspects that it returns there will have their human rights respected.

The Foreign Office and the British government know what the CIA is up to all over the world, and is no doubt, having information passed to it acquired under torture.

In fact, there is only one way to end torture by or on behalf of the imperialist powers, and that is to organise socialist revolutions to end capitalism and imperialism. Appealing to Straw and the police chiefs is a waste of time.