Friday, February 27, 2009

We did hand over terror suspects for rendition, Hutton admits.

The Defence Secretary, John Hutton, has admitted for the first time yesterday that the UK did participate in "extraordinary rendition" and that terror suspects handed over to the US in Iraq were flown out of the country for interrogation.

Contradicting previous insistences by the Government that it had no played no part in the controversial practice, John Hutton revealed that details of the cases were known by officials and detailed in documents sent to two cabinet members at the time – Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The prisoners, two men of Pakistani origin who were members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba group, which is said to be affiliated to al-Qa'ida, were captured by SAS troops serving near Baghdad in February 2004. They were handed over to US custody and flown to Afghanistan within the next few months. Among other inmates who passed through the prison was Binyam Mohammed, the UK citizen recently freed from Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Hutton apologised to the Commons "unreservedly" for misleading statements made by the Government in the past, adding "in retrospect, it is clear to me that the transfer to Afghanistan of these two individuals should have been questioned at the time".

It really does appear as if the wall of deceit is starting to crumble and that the government's continual lies over what it has and has not done in the war in terror are starting to prove impossible to maintain:

Hutton referred to allegations first made in February last year by Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier, that British troops had handed over to the US detainees who were then rendered to Iraq.

Griffin alleged that Iraqis and Afghans were captured by British and American special forces and rendered to prisons where they faced torture. The MoD obtained a gagging order preventing Griffin from saying anything further. Griffin said last night he remained bound by it.

They have placed gagging orders on those who were telling the truth, but, I suppose, with the release of Binyam Mohamed, they must fear that their lies are about to be exposed, so they have decided on a damage limitation exercise.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "A judicial public inquiry into this whole poisonous episode is the only hope for lancing the boil and moving on."

Reprieve, the human rights group, said the government had confirmed what its investigators uncovered many months ago - "that the UK has colluded with the US in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition". Its executive director Clare Algar said: "This government has misled us again and again.".

Tom Porteous, spokesman for Human Rights Watch, added: "We've now got enough credible allegations and reluctant ministerial admissions of wrongdoing to warrant a full-scale independent inquiry into UK involvement in the whole rotten system of US abuse including torture, renditions to torture, abusive detention policies, and disappearances.

"The internal review carried out by the government on the basis of which Hutton made today's statement appears to have been a bureaucratic and documentary exercise designed to cover tracks by ring-fencing any incriminating evidence in official records.

"A proper inquiry needs to start now. The drip, drip of allegations and admissions does huge damage to the international reputation of the UK and the ability of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to say that they are fighting on the side of justice and truth."

This really has been a shameful period in British history when we appear to be behaving outside of international law in the most flagrant way.
The 1949 Geneva convention on protecting civilians in times of war prohibits deportations of individuals to any other country, human rights lawyers said yesterday. The MoD said the case was "not a Geneva convention issue at all".
Of course, this was mostly done to placate an American president who is no longer in office, and it appears as if his successor is not of a mind to continue such practices. Which leaves the British government horribly exposed. And the release of people like Binyam Mohamed only means that more evidence is about to enter the public realm.

But it's very clear that we have been repeatedly lied to. We were lied to when the government claimed that no US aircraft transporting abducted prisoners landed on the British dependent territory of Diego Garcia in 2002, and now it transpires that we were lied to when the government claimed that we did not take part in "extraordinary rendition". I am utterly uninterested in whatever excuses they have to offer.

As Shami Chakrabarti states, the only way to restore public confidence is to have an immediate judicial inquiry. And it must be public.

Click title for full article.

No comments: