Dirty doings in Whitehall

At the end of 2012 the UK government agreed to pay £2.2 million ($3.5m) to Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi and his family, who say MI6 was involved in their illegal rendition. They were forcibly transferred to Gaddafi’s Libya in 2004.

Renditions-mapRendition is the transfer of persons from one jurisdiction to another after due legal process and in accordance with law. Extraordinary rendition is one that is outside the law. Rendition means the transfer itself. The apprehension, detention, interrogation, and any other practices occurring before or after the movement and exchange of extrajudicial prisoners do not fall into the strict definition of extraordinary rendition. In practice, however, the term is widely used to describe these practices.

After 9/11 the USA and the CIA in particular were accused of rendering hundreds of people suspected by the government of being terrorists – or of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations – to third-party states such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Uzbekistan. Known as “ghost detainees”, they are kept beyond judicial oversight, often without ever entering US territory, and may or may not ultimately be given into the custody of the United States.

Torture-cartoonThe term “torture by proxy” is used by some critics to describe situations in which the USA has allegedly transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture.

Sami al-Saadi was a leading opponent of Muammar Gaddafi who was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong, along with his wife and four children, in a joint UK-US-Libyan operation. They were flown to Libya where Sami al-Saadi was subsequently held and tortured.

In a statement on 13 December 2012, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said, “We can confirm that the government and the other defendants have reached a settlement with the claimants. There has been no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability.”

Bizarre that the British government should agree to fork out £2.2 million for something it did not do. But this is not the first settlement in which the security and intelligence agencies have faced allegations relating to their involvement in the treatment of detainees by foreign regimes. In 2010, ministers authorized a multi-million pound pay-out to men from the UK who were held in Guantanamo Bay – a deal that ensured their evidence of collusion with the US would not emerge in open court.

In September 2012 the European Parliament endorsed a new report on accountability for EU countries’ involvement in the CIA-led rendition and secret detentions programmes. It underlines the need to insist that European governments hold full and effective investigations into their collaboration with the CIA in setting up these sites, where suspects were tortured and otherwise ill-treated.

The United Kingdom is not alone. Three other European countries are known or alleged to have hosted secret CIA detention sites: Lithuania, Poland and Romania. In Poland, an investigation into a CIA secret prison has made limited progress, but the prosecutor has refused to keep either the parties or the public adequately informed. Romania has flatly denied any involvement in the CIA programmes, including credible allegations of a secret CIA prison there and has refused to investigate further. And although flight data and information released in 2011-12 clearly implicate Denmark and Finland, both governments have refused to investigate.

According to the UK Foreign Office, “No finding or admission of liability.” So that’s all right then. Kidnapping and torture are morally acceptable and tax payers must foot the bill. No wonder the country is going down the pan. A case to answer, I think.

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