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

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home