UK provided base for rendition flights, says European inquiry
By Robert Verkaik, Law Editor
Published: 09 June 2007
The British island of Diego Garcia played a critical role in the CIA's secret prisons programme supported by America and its Nato allies after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, a report shows.
New intelligence from Europe's human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, confirms the existence of "rendition" flights, and identifies covert CIA detention centres in Diego Garcia, Poland and Romania between 2002 and 2005.
A year ago, the report's author, Swiss MP Dick Marty, named the UK as among 14 European countries which colluded with the CIA in operating secret flights delivering terrorist suspects for interrogation.
Mr Marty said that the CIA had been running interrogation centres in eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Thailand, and that more than 100 people "affecting Europe" had been sent to the so-called "black sites" since 2001.
The Swiss MP said it was clear, despite a lack of "firm evidence", that the authorities in several European countries "actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities". But it was the confirmation about use of Diego Garcia, leased to America by Britain, which caused the most concern among many international human rights groups.
Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve, said: "Reprieve has been in possession of flight logs showing CIA planes flying in and out of the island for almost a year. A US general has twice said Diego Garcia is being used for secret prisons. Now, the Council of Europe confirms it. And what has the British Government done? Behaved like an ostrich with its head in the sand."
Yesterday's Council of Europe report offers more detailed analysis of testimonies from more than 30 serving and former members of intelligence services in the US and Europe.
It says only Bosnia and Herzegovina and Canada had "fully acknowledged their responsibilities with regard to the unlawful transfers of detainees".The rendition programme was kept secret for years "thanks to strict observance of the rules of confidentiality laid down in the Nato framework".
Rene van der Linden, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly president, said: "I don't know which is more shocking,- that European governments have been complicit, violating their legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, or that they have used anti-democratic methods to conceal their actions and frustrate parliamentary and judicial investigations."
The rendition programme was kept secret for years "thanks to strict observance of the rules of confidentiality laid down in the Nato framework".
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