Mayo 24, 2007

UK = MPs seek guarantees for safety of rendition captives

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 24 May 2007

Pressure is increasing on Gordon Brown to adopt tougher safeguards against alleged "torture" flights carrying suspected terrorists to secret locations.

An all-party group of senior MPs has called for a change in the law to require written guarantees about the protection of the prisoners before Britain allows its airports to be used for the so-called "extraordinary rendition" flights by the US.

In a separate development, the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is chaired by former cabinet minister Paul Murphy and reports directly to the Prime Minister, is also due to deliver a report on its investigation into Britain's role in extraordinary rendition.

That report is likely to contain criticism of the way that the system abuses human rights and over the failure by the UK authorities to keep any proper records of the flights through British airports.

The all-party group on extraordinary rendition said the system was "morally questionable and also risks placing the UK in breach of domestic and international obligations".

The group's Tory chairman, Andrew Tyrie, has written to the Intelligence and Security Committee urging it to condemn the practice. He said the US authorities denied the use of torture but it was believed maltreatment of suspects included extended sleep deprivation, inducing hypothermia and sensory deprivation.

The British Government at first denied any knowledge of rendition, but in 2005 confirmed it had allowed two rendition flights and turned two down in 1998. But a European council report suggested there were up to 170 flights by CIA planes through Britain which were used for rendition.

"It is apparent that adequate records do not appear to have been kept," Mr Tyrie said. "Secondly, as far as we can be aware, the Government has not made any attempt to put in place a mechanism for ensuring that renditions do not take place in the future through UK airspace or territory. We have a moral dilemma: we are benefiting from the unacceptable activities of our closest ally; activities which the UK specifically prohibits in law."

The US President, George Bush, has claimed that the extraordinary rendition had helped to avert a terrorist plot to bomb Heathrow. But Mr Tyrie said it undermined the rule of law and alienated moderate Muslim opinion.

The evidence that rendition exists has been underlined by three cases said Mr Tyrie: the Canadian case of Maher Arar, picked up in New York; the German case of Khaled Masri, held in Macedonia; and the Italian case of Abu Omar, kidnapped from Milan.

The all-party group is proposing the forthcoming Counter Terrorism Bill could be used to change the law to require an advance declaration of a rendition before British airports can be used; written assurances that its laws will not be contravened; and details of the final location and the purpose of the transfer of the suspect. It could also require the suspect to be identified.

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