Call for independent UK investigation into US renditions

Amnesty International has called for a full, independent investigation into any further UK involvement in renditions. The call follows the admission by the US and UK governments that two rendition flights had landed in Diego Garcia in 2002.

“As recognized by the UK government, the revelation that US planes, involved in the transfers of detainees, landed in Diego Garcia directly contradicts its own repeated assurances and public denials to the contrary,” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.  

“It highlights the need for full investigations into the USA’s detention and rendition practices and any involvement or complicity of European countries.”

Renditions have involved the abduction of individuals, the illegal transfer of detainees, enforced disappearance, torture, and secret detention. These are violations of international human rights and domestic law.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the UK authorities to carry out an independent investigation into any UK involvement in the practice of rendition.

In a positive development, The UK authorities have admitted misleading the parliament, international bodies and the public. The government has stated its intention to carry out investigations into other alleged rendition flights.

“European governments must now recognize that reliance on US assurances about renditions has been an inadequate response to an unlawful practice. The Diego Garcia admission must spur into action all European countries by initiating thorough, independent investigations,” said Claudio Cordone.

“Governments must heed the calls by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. They must also take immediate steps to ensure that the practice of rendition is not allowed to happen again.”

Amnesty International has been in correspondence with the current and previous UK Foreign Secretaries since February 2007, seeking an investigation into flight records which showed CIA-operated planes landing in Diego Garcia in 2002. Amnesty International has also expressed grave concern at the failure of the UK authorities to keep records of flights in and out of Diego Garcia.

The previous Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, stated to Amnesty International that the UK government had received firm assurances from US officials in October 2006 that Diego Garcia had at NO TIME (underscored) been used for transfer of prisoners, nor had they transited through its airspace.

Margaret Beckett also informed the organization that the UK does not routinely keep records of flights in and out of Diego Garcia. The current Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, repeated this assertion to the organization in October 2007, and that the UK government was satisfied with the US assurances.

The June 2007 report into renditions by the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights noted that the allegations surrounding the USA’s reported use of Diego Garcia for its rendition programme were “sufficiently serious to demand further investigation”.  

However, the Committee was “not in a position to carry out adequate analysis in order to reach definitive conclusions”, in part due to the fact that the UK government had “readily accepted ‘assurances’ from US authorities … without ever independently or transparently inquiring into the allegations itself, or accounting to the public in a sufficiently thorough manner”.

“The time for full disclosure is long overdue. The drip drip of information that continues to emerge about the USA’s detention and rendition practices, and continuing revelations about the possible involvement of other governments, cries out for transparency and accountability,” said Claudio Cordone.