‘OUTSOURCING OF TORTURE’ condemned by Swiss MP Marty

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The Council of Europe’s interim report yesterday said it is ‘highly likely’ that European governments know of the secret transport by the CIA of more than 100 prisoners through Europe to third countries where they face torture.

Citing statements made by American officials and others, Council of Europe investigator, Swiss MP Dick Marty also said there was ‘a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of “relocation” or “outsourcing” of torture’.

He added: ‘It has been proved – and in fact never denied – that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported . . . . in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered . . . . torture.’

Marty also welcomed the arrival yesterday of detailed information from Eurocontrol, Europe’s air traffic agency, and satellite images from the EU’s Satellite Centre, including sites located on Romanian territory.

However, he expressed his concern at the pressure put on the media in the United States not to report on this affair.

Marty said: ‘Our aim is to find out the truth that is being hidden from us today.’

His report was welcomed by UK human rights organisation Liberty, which has called for a change in British law to halt rendition flights.

Liberty added yesterday it fears that ‘the UK government will be complicit in acts of torture if it fails to more actively investigate the possible use of UK airports for “extraordinary rendition” flights’.

In response to Liberty’s request for police to investigate the allegations, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Michael Todd confirmed on 19 December 2005 that he will look into “extraordinary rendition” flights on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO.)

Liberty and Todd will meet again in mid-February 2006.

On 19 January 2006 and 30 November 2005 Liberty wrote to Blair and Foreign Secretary Straw asking them to seek assurances from the US that it is not using UK airports to transport suspects to countries that torture but has thus far received an ‘unsatisfactory response’.

• Second news story

‘REMOVE 300,000 LONE PARENTS’

Plans to bar one million sick and disabled people from benefits, remove the benefits of 300,000 lone parents and drive ‘a million more older people into work’ were announced by Department of Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton yesterday.

He told MPs in the House of Commons that: ‘GPs have an important role to play in helping to ensure their patients return to work. So we will test the impact of putting employment advisers into GP surgeries.

‘The first of these will be in place within a month.’

Statutory sick pay will be ‘reformed’ so that ‘it helps people stay in work’.

The Incapacity Benefit medical test will be ‘focused on a person’s capability and capacity to engage in the labour market rather than just the level of their incapacity.’

There will be ‘reform’ of the ‘exempt category’ so even blind and severely disabled people will be tested for their ‘capability to work’.

From 2008 a new Employment and Support Allowance will replace Incapacity Benefit for new claimants.

Claimants ‘will no longer receive more the longer they claim’ and will ‘be required to attend regular interviews, complete action plans and engage in work-related activity.

‘Those refusing to engage in the help and support offered could see their benefit reduced progressively in stages to the level of job seekers allowance.’

Lone parents will be required to attend more frequent interviews and penalised if they don’t, with the aim of getting 300,000 ‘off benefit and into work’.