Leading article: Britain and Europe must stand by their principles

Share

The British political establishment has been demonstrating a disgracefully equivocal attitude on the subject of torture for some time. The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, openly admitted in a recent statement to the Law Lords that her organisation makes use of the testimony of terror suspects who have been tortured abroad. And Jack Straw, speaking on behalf of the Government in the past, has articulated a similarly flexible attitude. The Foreign Secretary has argued that, if information that could stop a terrorist attack were received it could not be ignored, no matter how it was extracted. The line from those charged with safeguarding out security appears to be: "We do not condone torture, but we are happy to receive any information that results from it."

But now we learn that our government has sunk even lower into this immoral quagmire than we previously imagined. It has been alleged that the CIA has been using UK military and civilian airports as a stop-off point in the transportation of terror suspects en route to torture chambers abroad. This is surely more than turning a blind eye to the repugnant practice of torture. If these allegations are true, our government is actively facilitating it.

Of course, we have no way of knowing for certain at this stage which individuals have been processed through UK airports by the CIA, nor their ultimate destination. That information is never likely to be freely divulged by the US. But we know enough about the workings of the Bush administration to make an educated guess. The CIA admits that it has been operating a policy of "rendition" in which prisoners are transferred to friendly states such as Egypt and Jordan for questioning. These are countries known to use torture routinely. There is also evidence that the CIA has established secret prisons in Eastern Europe. What goes on in these places is unknown. But testimony from suspects that have subsequently been released points to torture.

Our government has so far been evasive on this subject. It claims it is not aware of British land being used for suspect flights abroad, but admits that records of transit applications have, for some unspecified reason, not been kept. It also refuses to confirm or deny the existence of secret US prisons in third countries. It is to be hoped that the new all-party group of MPs that will meet next week to press the Government on this subject will succeed in getting some answers.

It is, of course, no mystery why the Bush administration is behaving like this. Detaining suspects on foreign soil means they are unable to contest their imprisonment in the US courts. It also means they can be interrogated over a long period. It is a cynical way of getting round the law. But the duty of our government is clear: the US must be denied access to our airspace for any flight in which terror detainees are being rendered to third countries or secret prisons. Britain must also back the robust stance of the EU Justice Minister, Franco Frattini, in calling to account any member state that allows the US to run covert detention centres on its territory.

The manner in which the United States has disregarded the human rights of terror suspects since the 11 September attacks has disgraced that nation's good name. Transporting detainees for questioning in dubious third countries is little more than torture by proxy. And to the scandals of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib we must now add the so-called "black sites" in Romania and Poland.

Torture - no matter how "light" - cannot be justified on any grounds. It is not too late for Britain to stand up to its ally and refuse to have any part in this vile practice whatsoever.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam