OUTSOURCING FOR TORTURE – House of Commons Committee demands investigation

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THE House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has called for an investigation into whether the British Labour government outsourced British nationals to countries such as Pakistan for interrogation under torture.

The MPs’ report on rendition and torture states ‘that it is extremely important that the veracity of allegations that the government has “outsourced” interrogation techniques involving the torture of British nationals by Pakistani authorities should be investigated. . .

‘We conclude that it is not acceptable for the government to use an individual’s dual nationality as an excuse to leave him or her vulnerable to the prospect of possible torture.’

The MPs say the UK’s ‘no torture’ Memoranda of Understanding that govern the deportation of foreign national terrorist suspects from the UK to their country of origin, ‘remain controversial’.

The MPs add: ‘We conclude that the European Union can and must do more to help the United States in bringing about the overdue closure of the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.’

The MPs call on the UK government to intervene on behalf of UK resident Binyam Mohammed who faces a military tribunal.

On UK mercenaries, the MPs recommend that legislation ‘should impose strict regulation on private security companies, and ensure that these companies can be prosecuted in British courts for serious human rights abuses committed abroad’.

On the issue of torture, the MPs note the government’s willingness to take US remarks at face value, except ‘the attitude of the UK government to the practice known as “water-boarding”,’ which ‘is said to produce a fear of drowning’.

Noting that the UK considers ‘water-boarding’ as torture while the US does not, the MPs say: ‘We conclude that, given the clear differences in definition, the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future.’

The committee continued to stress: ‘The UK government has a moral and legal obligation to ensure that flights that enter UK airspace or land at UK airports are not part of the “rendition circuit”, even if they do not have a detainee on board during the time they are in UK territory.’

The committee noted that the UK government claims: ‘We have not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating the transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they would face a real risk of torture.’

The MPs added that despite earlier assurances that ‘UK territory had not been used for the purposes of rendition since 1998’, on 21 February 2008, current Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP, reported to the House of Commons that the US had now informed him that on two occasions in 2002 Diego Garcia had been used for rendition flights.

In both cases a US plane ‘with a single detainee refuelled at the US facility’ on the island.

The MPs said ‘as part of our Overseas Territories inquiry’ they asked Miliband whether a promised government list ‘included flights that may have been on the way to or from a rendition, but without a detainee on board.

‘He told us that the government’s purpose was “to identify whether rendition through UK territory or airspace in fact occurred” and that the government did “not consider that an empty flight transiting through our territory falls into this category”.

‘We asked Lord Malloch-Brown whether it was “more or less okay” for the US to use UK territory if a flight was empty.

‘His reply appeared to differ from the Foreign Secretary, focusing more on practical issues rather than any question of principle:

‘“I do not think that it is more or less okay, but there is a limit to what we can do effectively to monitor empty planes, whose purposes it is not really reasonable for us to investigate”.’