MPs accuse Washington of lying over rendition flights

David Connett
Sunday 06 July 2008 00:00
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MPs are to launch an investigation into US activities on Diego Garcia after accusing Washington of lying about extraordinary rendition flights from the British-controlled island in the Indian Ocean. They described false assurances given by the US about its use of Diego Garcia for the controversial flights as "deplorable".

Following one of the strongest British condemnations of the US rendition policy, by which terror suspects are sent overseas for interrogation, the influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) plans to scrutinise Whitehall's supervision of US activities on Diego Garcia, including all flights and ships serviced from there.

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was forced to apologise to the Commons in February after it was revealed that two US "extraordinary rendition" flights had landed on UK territory in 2002. Britain had previously been told that no such flights had passed through its territory.

His apology came after the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, admitted that two suspects had been on flights to Guantanamo Bay and Morocco in 2002 that had stopped to refuel on Diego Garcia. In a report published today, the MPs conclude that it is "deplorable that previous US assurances about rendition flights have turned out to be false. The failure of the US administration to tell the truth resulted in the UK government inadvertently misleading our select committee and the House of Commons."

Andy Tyrie, a Tory MP, welcomed the report last night. Mr Tyrie, chair of the parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, said: "In October 2007, I started asking questions about Diego Garcia. I was very concerned that Britain and British territory could have become complicit in America's programme of extraordinary rendition, whereby people have been kidnapped around the world and taken to places where they may be maltreated or tortured. The Foreign Secretary persistently gave me the brush-off. He said we could rely on US assurances. My allegations were correct. The Foreign Secretary's brush-off was not just misplaced, it was a disgrace."

He continued: "We must get to the bottom of British involvement in rendition. The Foreign Secretary's latest attempt to do so is wholly inadequate. We must have confidence that the US has not been using our airports to service their planes to or from a rendition, but the Foreign Secretary has refused to even ask the Americans if this is the case. This is yet another issue on which a weak and indecisive Prime Minister should have given leadership."

The FAC said the Government should also do more to support exiled inhabitants who were forcibly removed from Diego Garcia and adjoining islands when the US established a military base there.

In addition, it called for a public inquiry into allegations of official corruption in the Turks and Caicos islands, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean. MPs who visited the islands described the allegations as "very serious", saying they had experienced "a palpable climate of fear" while there, and warning they would take action against anyone who tried to intimidate witnesses who had spoken to them.

They also demanded evidence from the Foreign Office that it was fully investigating allegations of corruption in Bermuda and Anguilla, accusing the Foreign Office of being "too hands-off" in its administration of overseas territories.

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