Friday, February 27, 2009


So, having denied it black and blue for years, the UK government has finally admitted that it was complicit in extraordinary rendition. But not in the way you'd think. So far, suspicions have centred on the use of UK military bases as waypoints or even detention centres in the US's secret network of "black sites". But what the UK has admitted is even worse: turning over prisoners captured in Iraq to the Americans so they can be rendered to Afghanistan:

[Defence Secretary John Hutton] said British soldiers, believed to have been SAS troops, handed over two terrorist suspects to the US in Iraq in February 2004. The men had been captured outside the UK-controlled zone covering south-eastern Iraq.

Hutton said the pair, believed to be Pakistanis, were still being held in Afghanistan. He said they were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned organisation that he said was linked to al-Qaida. The US had assured Britain the two continued to represent "significant security concerns" and it was "neither possible or desirable to transfer them to either their country of detention or country of origin", Hutton told MPs.

The US had assured him the men were being held in humane conditions and had access to the Red Cross, Hutton said.

Which may indeed be true now - but in 2004 these prisoners were simply disappeared, and the Red Cross was denied access. As late as 2007, the Red Cross was complaining that prisoners were being held incommunicado at Bagram, the chief US gulag in Afghanistan, and "sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions". The CIA's prison, the charmingly named "salt pit", is even worse. Which means the UK isn't just complicit in rendition, but potentially torture, ill-treatment, and violations of the Geneva Conventions as well.