Torture flights: US lied to UK government

Questions remain.

Is there a torture centre in the US base on Diego Garcia?

That is to say, is the British government allowing torture to take place on its territory?

From the FT:

The US admitted on Thursday to inadvertently misleading the British government by using UK territory to refuel two “rendition” flights carrying alleged terrorists without informing ministers.The disclosure forced David Miliband, UK foreign secretary, to apologise to parliament and prompted furious responses from senior MPs accusing the US of “deception” and “lying”.

Some US officials were taken aback by the vehement criticisms expressed by MPs on Thursday, particularly those questioning the credibility of their main ally. Gordon Brown, British prime minister, said such renditions from UK territory were “a very serious issue” and promised to put in place procedures to ensure it would “never happen again”.

Mr Miliband has spoken to Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, several times this week, making clear that he would give his fullest backing to the relationship, while seeking guarantees that any other relevant information was shared, according to US diplomats.

Referring to his discussions with Ms Rice, Mr Miliband said: “We both agree that the mistakes made in these two cases are not acceptable and she shares my deep regret that this information has only just come to light.”

Michael Hayden, CIA director, said that administrative errors had led to “wrong” information being given to the British about two flights that stopped to refuel on the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia in 2002.

Mr Hayden said neither of the terrorist suspects was subjected to torture. “One was ultimately transferred to Guantánamo and the other was returned to his home country. These were rendition operations, nothing more,” he said.

US officials have not disclosed the identity or nationality of the individuals or explained why they were being moved to the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and to Morocco on those flights. The incident was uncovered in an internal investigation, launched late last year, that interviewed crews on board the flights.

Previously Britain had insisted that it was not aware of any British territory being used to transfer terrorism suspects outside normal extradition procedures since President George W. Bush took office in 2001.

A Council of Europe report in 2006 accused 14 European countries – including the UK, Germany, Italy and Sweden – of co-operating with extra-judicial abductions, claiming that Diego Garcia had been used. The allegations were strenuously denied.

The legal arrangements for the use of Diego Garcia do not require the US to declare such operations, according to US officials. However, the US has taken a policy decision to make such disclosures.

British intelligence officers have been advised by government lawyers that any direct involvement in rendition leading to torture would leave them liable to prosecution under European human right law, according to intelligence sources.

While the legal advice was given wide circulation within Whitehall by the end of 2003, when human rights concerns were coming to the fore, fewer people were aware of the recommendations at the time of the incident in Diego Garcia.

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