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Friday, January 20, 2006 

Straw's statement: same nonsense.

Straw's statement on rendition has added absolutely nothing, but has left him open to the same questions as before. The memo still shows that Straw lied to the Foreign Affairs committee, when he already knew about requests by the Clinton government to use UK airspace for rendition in 1998.

"We have found no evidence of detainees being rendered through the UK or overseas territory since 11 September 2001," said Mr Straw.

"We have found no evidence of detainees being rendered through the UK or overseas territory since 1997 where there were substantial grounds to believe there was a real risk of torture."

"We will grant permission only if we are satisfied that the rendition would accord with UK law and our international obligations, and how we understand our obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture."

He added: "We are also clear that the US would not render a detainee through UK territory or airspace (including overseas territory) without our permission."

The memo also makes clear that the US has a lower threshold on what they believe is torture (cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment is fine!), so technically if the UK received any request to comply with a rendition, it should be refused.

But all this is academic. Straw and the government still deny that they have any knowledge of CIA flights which have landed at airports across the country. A report issued by the Scottish National Party shows almost undeniably that airplanes associated and known to have been involved in rendition have landed at Prestwick, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports. It also names both front and real companies set up by the CIA to help with the rendition process. The plane numbers correspond with those previously published by the Guardian (see here and here). If they don't know about these flights, why don't they? Do the security services know, and if they do, why haven't they informed the government that the law is being broken by the CIA? If they don't, why don't they? These questions have so far failed to be answered by the government, who have pleaded ignorance but at the same time have issued internal memos saying that the debate should be moved on. Straw speaks of conspiracy theories, but the government's insistence that it knows nothing but at the same time is desperate to move on the debate smacks of its desperation.

At the very least, we need to have an inquiry into what flights have entered the UK that have been shown to be associated with so-called "extraordinary rendition". It is not good enough for the government to say it has no knowledge and therefore it has nothing to have an inquiry into. These airports must have records of the flights requesting permission to land, or at the very least contact with the control tower. The United States did not request permission to abduct those citizens it felt were worth interrogating from their respective countries, so why would they seek permission from the countries they may just be entering to refuel? This does not mean that the government does not have knowledge of what was going on; it may simply have been turning a blind eye. This is exactly why an inquiry is now needed, if only to restore confidence that this country is not complicit in torture which breaks UN conventions and shows the world that we are no better than those we are supposedly at war against.

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