Yesterday human rights group Liberty called on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to seek assurances in the next 14 days from the USA that it is not using UK airports to transport alleged terror suspects to secret torture centres in other countries.
Liberty has written to Straw and to police chiefs saying it fears that the UK is in breach of domestic and international law by allowing CIA ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights to land and re-fuel in Britain.
Liberty requested that the Police Chief Constables of Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence Police, Sussex, Thames Valley and West Midlands investigate suspected ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights at their local airports.
They too have been asked to respond within 14 days.
Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said: ‘It is troubling that our Government chases Algeria for anti-torture assurances but cowers from confronting the USA on the same issue.’
Liberty’s call to action against ‘extraordinary rendition’ marks the launch of its ‘No torture, no compromise’ campaign which seeks to make the UK government honour its positive obligation to stop torture and ill-treatment.
In its letter to Straw, Liberty states: ‘It is strongly believed that the CIA engages in the practice in the full knowledge, indeed expectation, that the people it transports will be subjected to torture in the country to which they are delivered.
‘If that is the case, the CIA agents and operatives are clearly complicit in any acts of torture inflicted on the people it has transported in the third countries to which it has delivered them.
‘Further, we submit that people transported through the United Kingdom as part of the practice of extraordinary rendition are subjected to torture within the United Kingdom.
‘Detaining a person where that person is aware that the purpose of the detention is to bring them to a place where they will be subjected to physical torture must itself be torture, as it will undoubtedly inflict severe mental suffering on the person detained.’
Liberty points out that this is in breach of both domestic and international law.
In its letter to chief constables, Liberty warns that the CIA actions make it guilty of aiding and abetting torture and kidnap, which puts CIA agents in breach of UK domestic law.
Liberty adds that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights ‘prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. The prohibition is absolute.
‘Article 3 also imposes obligations on states to prevent torture and to investigate arguable breaches of the Article.’
Liberty adds: ‘In our view it is clear that Articles 1 and 3 impose obligations on state authorities not only to investigate allegations of torture within their territory but also:
‘1. to prevent people within their territory from being removed by third parties to other countries where there is a substantial risk that they will be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, and
‘2. to investigate credible evidence that this has happened.
‘We consider that it would be unconscionable if such gross breaches of human rights were to go uninvestigated because the nature of the breaches is such that the victims are denied the possibility of making a complaint.’