Diego Garcia’s role in US rendition flights raises “disquieting questions”

August 9, 2009 at 7:54 pm 2 comments

The effectiveness of the Government’s exercise of its responsibilities in relation to the British Overseas Territory of Diego Garcia has been questioned by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

In their Human Rights Report the MPs also accused the Government of “pulling their punches” with Saudi Arabia over the rights of women and expressed concern about Zimbabwe.

Committee chairman Mike Gapes said:

“The Government must take further steps to obtain from the US the full details of the two admitted cases of rendition (under the Bush Administration) through Diego Garcia and request that the Obama Administration carries out a comprehensive check of its records including details of the movement of ships inside and outside Diego Garcia’s territorial waters.

“The Government must also address the use of UK airspace for empty flights which may be part of a rendition circuit and whether current aviation law, aircraft identification procedures and its own record-keeping and disposal policies are adequate.”

Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT).

It is one of 14 British overseas territories that are under British sovereignty but which do not form part of the UK.

The committee said it is “deplorable” that previous US assurances about rendition flights through Diego Garcia have turned out to be false.

“We further conclude that the basis of trust in subsequent US assurances about the use of BIOT has been undermined.

“We recommend that the Government outline what practical action it is taking to ensure that it has full sources of information about US rendition activity on BIOT.”

The MPs said the Government has a “moral and legal obligation” to ensure that flights that enter UK airspace or land at UK airports are not part of the rendition circuit.

“We recommend that the Government complete its analysis of practicalities of signing the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances as soon as possible.

“We further recommend that, having been supportive of the Convention at the drafting stage, the Government should declare its intention, in principle, to sign.”

The committee’s report expressed concern about abuses of human rights in a number of countries.

The MPs said the credibility of the UN Human Rights Council was damanged by their May 2009 resolution rejecting calls for investigation of human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

“The Government should press for the setting up of an international war crimes inquiry, to investigate allegations of atrocities carried out by both sides in the Sri Lankan civil war,” the committee said.

“The FCO report pulls its punches on the massive scale of abuses taking place in Saudi Arabia.

“Just because it is a “strategic ally” should not mean that we turn a blind eye to its human rights failings, specifically in relation to women’s rights.

“Recent events in Iran have revealed the extent of the desire amongst millions of Iranians for a fairer electoral process, as well as for greater personal freedoms and a normalisation of relations between Iran and the wider world. Iran’s overall human rights record remains appalling.

“Although the participation of the opposition in Zimbabwe in a transitional coalition government, and the recent measures of economic stabilisation, offer glimmers of hope, it is difficult to see how fundamental reforms in governance, the rule of law, and ending human rights abuses can be achieved as long as Robert Mugabe and his supporters are still in power and control the security apparatus.

“The Government should provide immediate aid to Zimbabwe’s suffering people, subject to safeguards against its falling into the hands of Mr Mugabe and his supporters, should encourage progress towards the early holding of fair and free elections, and should make preparations for a long-term reconstruction package to be delivered when a genuinely democratic and representative government is finally in place.

“The FCO should continue to raise the gross violations of human rights in Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council.”

The committee said there are “profoundly difficult moral questions” about the use of intelligence information which may serve to avert a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack but had been obtained through torture.

“The Government has a duty to use information that comes into its possession, from whatever source and however obtained, if it believes this will avert the loss of life,” they said.

“At the same time, we strongly recommend that the Government should continue to exert as much persuasion and pressure as possible to try to ensure world-wide that torture is not employed as a method of interrogation.

“We further conclude that the Government is correct to base decisions about intelligence co-operation on an assessment of the risk of mistreatment of detainees, and we are heartened to learn that there have been cases in which on this basis co-operation had not taken place.

Mr Gapes said:

“While we understand the Government’s caution about publishing historical guidance to intelligence officers whilst current court cases are in progress, we are not convinced that the release of material that would be available to a court on request is likely to prejudice a case.

“We therefore recommend that such historical guidance should be placed in the public domain as soon as possible.”

Click here to read the report.


Entry filed under: Committees, Commons. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill Bartmann  |  September 2, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Great site…keep up the good work.

  • 2. Bill Bartmann  |  September 3, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Cool site, love the info.


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