Friday, February 22, 2008

The US lied to Britain over rendition

Several years ago, when the issue of extraordinary rendition - the kidnapping of suspected terrorists and their transport to third world countries for torture - became an issue, the UK asked the US for an assurance from the US that no rendition flights had passed through their territory. They received one. Now it turns out - surprise, surprise - that the Americans lied:

Britain acknowledged today for the first time that US planes on "extraordinary rendition" flights stopped on British soil twice.

The admission came from the foreign secretary, David Miliband, who apologised to MPs for incorrect information given by his predecessor, Jack Straw, and the former prime minister Tony Blair.

Miliband said the government had recently received information from Washington that two flights - one to Guantánamo Bay and one to Morocco – had stopped over at Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean.

Each plane carried a single terror suspect and neither of the men had been tortured, the CIA said.

"Contrary to earlier explicit assurances that Diego Garcia had not been used for rendition flights, recent US investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred," Miliband told MPs.

Of course, this immediately raises another problem: having lied blatantly in a previous "solemn assurance", how can we believe this one? In particular, how can we believe the US's assurances that these men haven't been tortured (particularly given the US's creative interpretations of the word to exclude acts like strapado and waterboarding), or their assurance that they have not been operating a "black site" torture-centre on Diego Garcia? We won't know unless the British actually go and look (Diego Garcia is after all UK territory, even if it was recently stolen from its original inhabitants). But sadly, that's the last thing I expect them to do. Instead, they'll just sweep this appalling abuse of human rights under the carpet, and make no efforts to bring those responsible to justice.