Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report

4 Human rights and the war against terrorism

49. Since the US and its allies took military action in the wake of the atrocities of 11 September 2001, the war against terrorism has provoked controversy, not least for its potential conflicts with human rights. We have discussed these issues at length in our recent Report on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Human Rights Report 2004, and it is appropriate that we repeat our concerns here.[70] On 10 March, the Intelligence and Security Committee published a Report into The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and Iraq, which also raises important questions in this area.[71]

50. The imperative of prosecuting terrorist networks and protecting society against terrorist outrages raises difficult questions for the defenders of human rights. In his foreword to the Human Rights Annual Report 2004, the Foreign Secretary explicitly recognises the tension between the protection of liberties and freedoms and the need to prevent terrorist atrocities:

The threat of terrorism confronts democratic, properly-functioning states with a challenge: to fight those who recognise none of the values for which we stand, while remaining true to those values.[72]

51. In evidence to our inquiry into the Human Rights Annual Report, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both criticised the way in which the war against terrorism has been waged, arguing that those "values for which we stand" have been violated and disregarded. Whereas the Annual Report states that "respecting human rights and successfully combating terrorism are mutually reinforcing", Amnesty is of the view that "the drive to counter-terrorism at home and abroad is eroding and, in some cases removing, the human rights of individuals".[73] And whereas the Annual Report warns that "the abuse of human rights risks creating new reservoirs of discontent which can nurture terrorism itself", Human Rights Watch told us that "serious abuses and trampling of due process by …the United States…have helped create such 'reservoirs of discontent'".[74]

52. The main concerns of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch relate to the behaviour of the United States, and the United Kingdom's complicity as a key strategic ally; and the actions taken by the United Kingdom at home to strengthen the capacity to prevent terrorism and prosecute its perpetrators. The latter area is a matter primarily for the Home Office, our sister Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, but the Government's policy towards the US is very much our concern.

Guantánamo Bay

53. We have previously commented on the camps at Guantánamo Bay in our Report on the Annual Human Rights Report 2003 and in our series of Reports on Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism.[75] The United States continues to hold over 500 people in the camp of 42 different nationalities, although the last British detainees were returned to this country in January, to be released without charge by police. Administration officials told the Washington Post at the beginning of January that plans were being developed to hold detainees without trial over the long term and possibly for life.[76]

54. Over recent months further concerns have emerged regarding the treatment of detainees. In December 2004, a leaked report from the International Committee of the Red Cross was reported to have described US interrogation methods at the camp as "tantamount to torture" and in January, under the American Freedom of Information Act, hundreds of internal documents and memos were released, which indicate systematic abuse of detainees.[77] An anonymous FBI agent wrote in one of the papers released:

On a couple of occasions I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a foetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water…Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more.[78]

55. The FCO's Annual Report on human rights registers the "concern in civil society, Parliament, the media and the legal profession" in the United Kingdom over the continued detentions although expressing concerns of the Government in cautious language. The FCO focuses on the position of the British detainees, of whom four remained in the camp when it was published. The Report criticises the proposed military commissions by which detainees are to be tried, stating that they "would not provide sufficient guarantees of a fair trial according to international standards", and states that the welfare of the British detainees has been a priority for the Government "from the outset". There were more welfare visits to the camp from British officials than from any other government, and the detention conditions were improved following the raising of welfare concerns by the Government at various levels.[79]

56. In its recent Report, the Intelligence and Security Committee noted that the FCO received assurances in March 2002 from the US State Department that detainees were being treated humanely, and that "the Foreign Secretary was … satisfied with the US authorities' assurances".[80] British intelligence personnel made several visits to the camp and after the last visit, in February 2004, the Security Service reported that the mental health of detainees was deteriorating due to the conditions under which they were being kept. These concerns were raised at a senior level with the US, by the Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Adviser.[81]

57. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch made strong criticisms of the Government and of the Annual Report for its approach to the issues of Guantánamo Bay. Amnesty called the detentions a "shocking outrage" which amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" and Human Rights Watch referred to the "severe trampling of process" by the US.[82] Both groups questioned what Human Rights Watch called the "quite extraordinary", and seemingly exclusive, focus of the Government on the position of British nationals detained in the camp, regardless of the more general concern for all detainees. Human Rights Watch called this an "absolutely fundamental misunderstanding" of the issues raised by the entire regime at Guantánamo Bay, and said that for the Government to fail to understand this was "enormously worrying". Both groups expressed regret that the Government has not seen fit to make stronger criticism of the US administration over the camps. In our view, such criticism fails to take due account of the fact that the Government had particular consular responsibilities towards British citizens and that it was right to focus at first on their welfare.

58. Amnesty also raised the question of the detainees who are British residents but not British nationals, saying that the Government's diplomatic efforts had not been extended to those detainees. In November 2004, in answer to a Parliamentary Question in the House of Lords, FCO Minister of State Baroness Symons said that:

The British Government are not in a position to provide consular or diplomatic assistance to those detainees in Guantanamo Bay who are not British nationals, including those who hold refugee status and are, or were, resident in the United Kingdom.[83]

In December, FCO Minister Chris Mullin stated that "We are aware of five former British residents also in detention [in Guantánamo Bay] but the Government is not in a position to provide consular or diplomatic assistance to them and I therefore cannot comment on their situation".[84] This refusal by Ministers even to comment on the situation of former residents of the United Kingdom detained in Cuba has been the subject of considerable criticism.

59. Bill Rammell, Minister for Human Rights, did not accept these criticisms when we pressed him in evidence to our inquiry into the Human Rights Annual Report. He referred to the horrific events of 11 September 2001, saying that "the United States has been absolutely right to take the greatest of care with terrorist suspects" and that information obtained from detainees had "helped to protect all of us from potential further terrorist attack". Nonetheless, he stated that the Government's position had always been that the detainees should be tried according to international standards or released; he was "genuinely not aware" of any plans the US government might have to hold detainees long-term, as reported in the press. The Government had, he told us, concentrated on the position of the British detainees in its lobbying of the US Administration as it was there that the greatest pressure could be brought to bear.[85]

60. We find that the Government's position on the detentions at Guantánamo Bay does not sit easily with its pledge in the Human Rights Annual Report to "respect, and urge others to respect, those human rights laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that can never be compromised, even in states of emergency". Nor is it in line with the Annual Report's statements that "there is no excuse for the deliberate mistreatment or neglect of prisoners" and that "a government itself is bound by law and that the arbitrary exercise of power not based on law is without authority".[86] Finally, the approach appears to conflict with the Government's striking claim in the introduction to the Annual Report to "speak loudly and clearly on the international stage" against abuses.[87]

61. We conclude that, now that the British nationals have been released from detention at Guantánamo Bay, the Government need no longer keep its diplomacy quiet in the interests of increasing leverage over individual cases. We recommend that the Government make strong public representations to the US administration about the lack of due process and oppressive conditions in Guantánamo Bay and other detention facilities controlled by the US in foreign countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. We further recommend that, during the United Kingdom Presidency of the EU, the Government raise the situation at these facilities in the UN Commission for Human Rights.

Treatment of detainees by US personnel

62. The behaviour of US personnel has also been called into question following the appalling events at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the release, in January, of documentation of complaints from Iraqi prisoners held in other detention facilities by the US.[88] Charles Graner, the ringleader of the attacks at Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in January and further trials, against other servicemen involved in the abuses, are pending. It is not yet clear whether any officers in positions of responsibility will be prosecuted. The Human Rights Annual Report assures its readers that "allegations of serious abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere have been or are being investigated and those responsible have been or will be held to account".[89]

63. The Annual Report refers briefly but in no uncertain terms to the abuses at Abu Ghraib calling them "shocking" and "shameful" and quoting the Foreign Secretary's statement to the House of Commons of 11 May 2004, in which he said "These images, and the evidence that they portray, are a shame on all of us. They are utterly shameful, disgusting and disgraceful."[90]

64. Notwithstanding this very clear message, in giving evidence to our inquiry into the Human Rights Report, Amnesty and Human Rights Watch criticised the Government's position both in the Report and outside it, more for what has not, than for what has, been said. Amnesty stated that the Government has demonstrated a "marked reluctance to question or criticise the conduct of US forces", treating allegations of abuse as a matter for the US government rather than a matter for international opprobrium. The Annual Report does not make clear whether or not the United Kingdom made representations to the US administration over the events at Abu Ghraib prison.

65. In February, documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union described the destruction, by the US Army, of photographs of US soldiers posing with hooded and bound detainees during mock executions, in facilities in Afghanistan.[91] Human Rights Watch, in evidence to us, drew parallels between events at Abu Ghraib and the behaviour of US troops elsewhere, saying the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison "did not take place in isolation"; American troops in Afghanistan too have an "exceptionally poor record of abuse of detainees and use of excessive force". Human Rights Watch also criticised both the US administration and the British government for failing to confront what it judges to be a recurring motif in the actions of US troops. In oral evidence, Steve Crawshaw of Human Rights Watch told us:

The kind of abuses we saw at Abu Ghraib were clearly not just bad apples. It was absolutely part of a pattern of wishing to push boundaries, of thinking of torture as being a useful tool to apply in the war on terror.[92]

66. Human Rights Watch told us that a "permissive culture of torture…has been allowed to take root amongst policy-makers in Washington". At the beginning of January, it was reported that the US administration had revised its guidance to troops to prohibit the infliction of "severe pain" on suspects under interrogation, overriding previous guidance which stated that mistreatment amounted to torture only "if it produced severe pain equivalent to that associated with organ failure or death".[93] Other documents released by the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act show that the administration received and for a time accepted advice that there existed legal authority for extremely harsh interrogation methods and even torture.[94]

67. In its report, The Road to Abu Ghraib, Human Rights Watch stated that, following the events of 11 September 2001, the US administration "effectively sought to re-write the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to eviscerate many of their most important protections", "began to employ coercive methods designed to 'soften up' detainees for interrogation" and "took at best a 'see no evil, hear no evil' approach to all reports of detainee mistreatment".[95] In evidence to us, Human Rights Watch criticised the "very little willingness by the US administration and an extreme unwillingness by the British government to confront" the pattern of events. [96] Human Rights Watch even went so far as to state in evidence that:

If a totalitarian government were to carry out such abuses, the UK government would not hesitate to speak out. It is regrettable if the British government feels constrained to remain silent because the abusive government is a political ally.[97]

68. When we questioned Bill Rammell on this subject, he told us that, while human rights abuses could occur in any country, the United States—and the United Kingdom—had demonstrated its institutional rejection of such behaviour, through the investigations made into the alleged crimes and the public condemnations made by the Government.

69. We conclude that US personnel appear to have committed grave violations of human rights of persons held in detention in various facilities in Iraq, Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan. We recommend that the Government make it clear to the US administration, both in public and in private, that such treatment of detainees is unacceptable.

70. The recent Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, while noting that its remit does not extend to the behaviour of US personnel, made some criticism of the way in which British concerns about US treatment of detainees were raised with the US authorities. The Committee concluded:

We have reported that on a number of occasions when UK officials informed the US authorities of their concerns, these were not fully followed up by the UK. All such reports should be followed up by the UK authorities and, so far as it is within their power, fully investigated.[98]

71. The Committee also raised the problem that the US was the detaining authority in Guantánamo Bay, in most facilities in Afghanistan and in some of the facilities in Iraq. British intelligence personnel, who had been invited by the US to observe and conduct interviews of detainees, were hampered by the fact that US authorities did not (except from January to March 2004 in Abu Ghraib prison) share with British personnel the interrogation techniques they considered acceptable. The Committee recommended that:

the UK authorities should seek agreement with allies on the methods and standards for the detention, interviewing or interrogation of people detained in future operations.[99]

72. We agree with the recommendation of the Intelligence and Security Committee that the British authorities should seek agreement with allies on the methods and standards for the detention, interviewing or interrogation of people detained in future operations.

Treatment of detainees by British personnel

73. Allegations of misconduct have also been made against British troops in Iraq. The Human Rights Annual Report states that "there have been no allegations of systematic mistreatment of persons held by the UK although there have been isolated reports".[100] On 23 February two British soldiers were found guilty of involvement in abuse of Iraqi civilians, which only came to light when photographs which the men had taken of the incident were discovered. They and a third soldier who pleaded guilty were later sentenced to terms of up to two years and were dismissed from the Army.[101]

74. Amnesty told us that it was "concerned that investigations into these allegations lack sufficient independence or transparency".[102] Bill Rammell said in evidence that "among 65,000 troops that have been engaged in Iraq there were ultimately about seven cases that have gone through to prosecution" and assured us that investigatory procedures were strictly applied: "as soon as there is any allegation of abuse there is a thorough investigation…I do not think anybody has made the argument that we have not dealt with that seriously".[103] However, the guilty verdicts against the soldiers who committed the abuses at Camp Breadbasket have provoked fresh claims of abuse, and no-one has yet been charged with involvement in the most serious breaches, in which Iraqi men were photographed while being forced to engage in simulated sexual acts. There were also claims in the course of the courts martial against those convicted that officers' instructions on the treatment of detainees had been framed in such a way as to allow troops to believe that they were being permitted, or even encouraged, to abuse detainees, yet no officer has yet been charged in connection with these offences.

75. The Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee updated its ongoing examination of the behaviour of British intelligence personnel in conducting or observing interviews of detainees in Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and Iraq. Over 2,000 such interviews were conducted and actual or potential breaches of British policy or international Conventions were reported by British personnel in 15 cases. The Committee "have been told there were no other occasions".[104] The Committee concluded that SIS and Security Service personnel deployed to Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and Iraq were not sufficiently trained in the Geneva Conventions, nor were they aware which interrogation techniques the United Kingdom had specifically banned. In two cases this led to a breach of British policy, when detainees were hooded during the interviews. In another case specific concerns about the handling of a detainee by US personnel, observed by an SIS officer, were not raised with the senior US official, nor were they brought to the attention of the Foreign Secretary. The Committee concluded that, other than these cases, they had found no evidence of abuse by British intelligence personnel, but recommended improvements to training and to the procedures for raising concerns with the US.[105]

76. We conclude that some British personnel have committed grave violations of human rights of persons held in detention facilities in Iraq, which are unacceptable. We recommend that all further allegations of mistreatment of detainees by British troops in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere be investigated thoroughly and transparently. We conclude that it is essential that wherever there are overseas detention facilities, those responsible for detainees must have adequate training. We recommend that the Government review its training of and guidance to agency personnel, officers, NCOs and other ranks on the treatment of detainees to ensure that there is no ambiguity on what is permissible.


77. The FCO's Human Rights Annual Report 2004 states:

Torture is abhorrent and illegal and the UK is opposed to the use of torture under all circumstances. Torture…is prohibited, both under international humanitarian law and under international human rights law. The prohibition of torture in international law is widely considered…a rule which is binding on the international community of states as a whole, regardless of their consent, and from which no derogation is permissible.[106]

78. The past few months have witnessed a debate in the United Kingdom which Amnesty has called a "creeping acceptance of the practice of torture".[107] On 11 August the Court of Appeal ruled two to one in the cases of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, Mahmoud Abu Rideh Jamal Ajouaou and the Secretary of State for the Home Department that evidence obtained under torture would be deemed admissible in court unless it had been directly procured by British agents or if British agents had connived in its procurement. At the end of November, in reaction to this case, the UN Committee against Torture recommended that the Government should make a formal undertaking that it will not rely on, or present evidence obtained through torture in any proceedings, stating that "article 15 of the Convention prohibits the use of evidence gained by torture wherever and by whomever obtained". [108]

79. Amnesty described this debate as deeply regrettable and regressive, risking undoing the years of efforts by the FCO to eradicate the use of torture around the world, and stated it was "appalled" by the Government's stance. Human Rights Watch pointed out that the Court of Appeal judgement stated that the UN Convention against Torture was not part of domestic law, setting a dangerous precedent and appearing to contradict the Government's recognition in the Annual Report that "no derogation is permissible" from the international prohibition of torture.

80. Human Rights Watch recognised that there might be compelling arguments to act upon information extracted under torture, if it gave, for example, details of an imminent terrorist attack and therefore helped prevent the deaths of innocent people. However, in their view to accept information on this basis would be to begin the descent into an "immoral, illegal and destabilising" culture of permissiveness. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch concurred in warning that the effect of the Court of Appeal ruling, if transmuted into government policy, would be to encourage, by giving the impression of condoning, torture by repressive governments around the world. Human Rights Watch stated that:

Once you have sent the message that you are keeping the door open [to information obtained under torture] you have a relationship with the torturers' regime and that is more widely known…The signal has been sent saying, "Yes, please. Give us anything that you have and we do not particularly care how that information is reached."

The effect of sending such a signal "undoubtedly makes us less, not more, safe".[109] Moreover, even if the moral question is put to one side, information extracted in this manner is unreliable, as "people [are] ready to tell complete untruths, incriminating themselves, when they were completely uninvolved".[110]

81. We requested further information on this point from the Foreign Secretary and Bill Rammell, as well as following up the line of inquiry with Mr Rammell in oral evidence. Both reiterated the Government's abhorrence of torture, and Bill Rammell stated that:

We oppose the use of torture ourselves. We would never advocate anybody else using torture and to my knowledge we have not knowingly received intelligence that we have known has been gained under torture.[111]

However, when pressed on this latter point, neither the Foreign Secretary nor Mr Rammell was forthcoming. In correspondence, when asked to respond specifically to the question of whether the United Kingdom received and acted upon information extracted under torture by third parties, both Mr Straw and Mr Rammell successively failed to answer the question, instead stating that:

The UK intelligence and security agencies evaluate carefully the intelligence they receive against a range of factors; any concerns about the source of the intelligence or the means by which it may have been obtained would be taken into account.[112]

Written Parliamentary Questions asked by John Bercow MP and Greg Pope MP have elicited similar answers, couched in identical language.[113]

82. The Foreign Secretary was more forthcoming in giving evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee, in which he said that:

There are certainly circumstances where we may get intelligence from a liaison partner where we know… that their practices are well below the line. But you never get intelligence which says 'here is intelligence and by the way we conducted this under torture'.

The Foreign Secretary also told the Intelligence and Security Committee that:

it does not follow that if it is extracted under torture, it is automatically untrue. But there is a much higher probability of it being embellished.

83. In relation to the moral dilemma of accepting evidence which, although extracted under torture, may save lives, the Foreign Secretary said that:

If you do get a bit of information which seems to be completely credible, which may have been extracted through unacceptable practices, do you ignore it? And my answer to that is, the moment at which it is put before you, you have to make an assessment about its credibility. Because… [what ] if we had been told through liaison partners that September 11th was going to happen…you cannot ignore it if the price of ignoring it is 3,000 people dead.[114]

84. In recent months, press reports have alleged that, since 11 September 2001, US agents have systematically kidnapped suspected terrorists and sent them to countries in which they have suffered torture, for the purpose of extracting intelligence, a practice known as extraordinary rendition.[115] We discuss extraordinary rendition in the next section of this Report.

85. We conclude that the arguments for evaluating information which purports to give details of, for example, an impending terrorist attack, whatever its provenance, are compelling. We further conclude, however, that to operate a general policy of use of information extracted under torture would be to condone and even to encourage torture by repressive states.

86. We find it surprising and unsettling that the Government has twice failed to answer our specific question on whether or not the United Kingdom receives or acts upon information extracted under torture by a third country. We recommend that the Government, in its response to this Report, give a clear answer to the question, without repeating information already received twice by this Committee.

87. We recommend that the Government set out, in its response to this Report, a full and clear explanation of how its policy on the use of evidence gained under torture is consistent with the United Kingdom's international commitments as set out in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which states, at Article 15, that "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made".

Rendition of terrorist suspects

88. Some of the methods of gathering intelligence in the war against terrorism raise concerns about respect for human rights and compliance with international obligations. This issue has gained prominence following allegations by Craig Murray, the United Kingdom's former Ambassador in Uzbekistan, about the use of information gained through torture. Speaking about Uzbekistan, Mr Murray has said that he has "no doubt that the United Kingdom is receiving information that has been obtained under torture".[116] In a speech in November 2004, Mr Murray expanded on his concerns:

Many of my colleagues in other countries must also be seeing intelligence obtained under torture. The US State Department briefing says that torture is used as "A routine investigative technique" by the Uzbek security services. Theo van Boven, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, found it to be "Widespread and systemic". Nobody in the British government has attempted to argue to me that the information we receive from the Uzbek sources was not obtained under torture. Rather they argue that we did not encourage or instigate the torture, so are not complicit. That might be a valid argument—and I repeat might—if we stumbled on the material in the street, or got handed some as a one off. But it is not sustainable where we regularly receive such material through an established system. That must make us complicit.[117]

89. Mr Murray has also raised the policy of 'extraordinary rendition'—the deliberate transfer of terrorist suspects to foreign countries for interrogation, knowing that torture may be used. Mr Murray has told the press that: "There is increasing evidence that America is shipping people round the world to be tortured… I saw it in Uzbekistan because I happened to be there, but it's also happening in countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia."[118]

90. The practice of transferring terrorist suspects to foreign countries for interrogation which could lead to information being obtained under torture is not new. Human Rights Watch has been documenting and campaigning against the practice for a number of years. In November 2003, Human Rights Watch called on President Bush to "end the transfer of detainees to countries that routinely engage in torture, such as Syria, if he is to fulfil his pledge to champion democracy and human rights in the Middle East and honor the United States' international legal obligations."[119]

91. The US has transferred prisoners from one country to another, without formal extradition proceedings, for some years. In testimony to the 9/11 Commission in 2004, George Tenet, former head of the CIA, said that: "The Center [CIA counter-terrorism center] has racked up many successes, including the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001."[120] Tenet had previously put the number of cases of rendition prior to 11 September 2001 at 70.[121]

92. The Bush administration has refused to confirm the policy of extraordinary rendition. However, a recent report by the New York Times cites former government officials who claim that since 11 September 2001, the CIA has flown 100-150 suspected terrorists from one foreign country to another, including Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan.[122]Extraordinary rendition raises serious concerns about human rights abuses: according to the US State Department's annual human rights report, the countries to which the US is transferring suspects use torture in their prisons.[123] A number of former detainees have described being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques and brutal treatment while in detention. According to press reports, former detainees have been subjected to electric shocks, have been beaten, shackled and humiliated.[124]

93. As well as raising serious human rights concerns, the practice risks jeopardising calls by the international community for democratic reform and respect of human rights in the Arab and Islamic worlds. For example, increased pressure on Syria to reform comes at the same time as reports about the extraordinary rendition of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian national. Mr Arar was seized by US authorities in New York in September 2002 and taken to Syria for interrogation. He was released in October 2003; no charges were brought against him and he returned to Canada.[125] Mr Arar has said that he was subjected to beatings while in Syria.[126]

94. There are allegations that the United Kingdom is complicit in the US policy of extraordinary rendition. Not only is it suggested that information provided by the United Kingdom has led to the capture and eventual torture of terrorist suspects, but there are also reports that British facilities have been made available to two 'executive jets' that are used by the CIA to carry out renditions.[127] Following Mr Murray's allegations, there are also concerns that the United Kingdom may be making use of intelligence gained as a result of extraordinary rendition.

95. In March, the Intelligence and Security Committee published a report on "The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq".[128] The report does not refer to extraordinary rendition, but does make reference to 'ghost detainees', which it describes as "individuals that the US authorities are holding at undisclosed locations under unknown conditions and to whom the International Committee of the Red Cross does not have access."[129] The report notes that the Security Service informed them that they had "received intelligence of the highest value from detainees, to whom we have not had access and whose location is unknown to us, some of which has led to the frustration of terrorist attacks in the UK or against UK interests."[130]

96. On 25 February, we wrote to the FCO about extraordinary rendition. We asked the Government:

  • whether the United Kingdom has used extraordinary rendition or any other practice of sending suspects to third countries for interrogation;
  • whether the United Kingdom has allowed any other country to use its territory or its airspace for such purposes or received information which has been gained using these methods; and
  • whether the Government regards the use of such methods as (a) legally and (b) morally acceptable?

97. In its response to this letter, the Government told us:

The British Government's policy is not to deport or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person will be subject to torture or where there is a real risk that the death penalty will be applied. Whether rendition is contrary to international law depends on the particular circumstances of each case. We encourage all members of the international community to respect international law and human rights standards… The British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or airspace for the purposes of "extraordinary rendition". The British Government has not received any requests, nor granted any permissions, for the use of UK territory or airspace for such purposes… As you will be aware, this issue was the subject of a comprehensive inquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee, whose report (CM6469) has just been published. Ministers have also answered a number of Parliamentary questions on this.[131]

This response does not provide a satisfactory answer to our questions. Similarly, parliamentary questions put by a Member of this Committee have met with obfuscation.[132]

98. We conclude that the Government has failed to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue. If the Government believes that extraordinary rendition is a valid tool in the war against terrorism, it should say so openly and transparently, so that it may be held accountable. We recommend that the Government end its policy of obfuscation and that it give straight answers to the Committee's questions of 25 February.

70   Fourth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 2004-05, Human Rights Annual Report 2004, HC 109, paras 67-106  Back

71   Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, "The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq", March 2005, Cm 6469. Back

72   HC (2004-05) 109, Q3 Back

73   Human Rights Annual Report 2004 p 13; HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 1 Back

74   Human Rights Annual Report 2004, p13; HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 25 Back

75   See list of Reports on inside covers Back

76   Washington Post, 2 January 2005,  Back

77   Guardian, 1 December 2004 Back

78   Observer, 2 January 2005 Back

79   Human Rights Annual Report 2004, p 18 Back

80   Cm 6469, para 61 Back

81   ibid., paras 67-8 Back

82   Q5; HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 26 Back

83   HC Deb, 8 November 2004, col WA53 Back

84   HC Deb, 6 December 2004, col 400W Back

85   HC (2004-05) 109, Q76 Back

86   Human Rights Annual Report 2004 pp13-14, p180, p176 Back

87   Human Rights Annual Report 2004 p15 Back

88   Los Angeles Times, 25 January 2005 Back

89   Human Rights Annual Report 2004 p 15 Back

90   Human Rights Annual Report 2004 p14, p21 Back

91   Guardian, 18 February 2005 Back

92   HC (2004-05) 109, Q8 Back

93   Sunday Telegraph, 2 January 2005 Back

94   Financial Times, 7 January 2005 Back

95   The Road to Abu Ghraib,  Back

96   HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 26 Back

97   Ibid Back

98   HC (2004-05) 109, para 125 Back

99   HC (2004-05) 109, para 131 Back

100   HC (2004-05) 109, p 21 Back

101   Daily Telegraph, 23 February and 26 February 2005 Back

102   Ev 11 Back

103   HC (2004-05) 109, Q 84 Back

104   HC (2004-05) 109, para 110 Back

105   HC (2004-05) 109, paras 121-122 Back

106   Human Rights Annual Report p182 Back

107   HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 4 Back

108   Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Thirty-third session, 15-26 November 2004  Back

109   HC (2004-05) 109, Q14 Back

110   HC (2004-05) 109, Q15 Back

111   HC (2004-05) 109, Q80 Back

112   HC (2004-05) 109, Ev 74, 76 Back

113   HC Deb. 11 January 2005, Col 413W; 2 February 2005, Col 940W; 10 February 2005, Col 1712W Back

114   Cm 6469, para 33 Back

115   Independent, 10 February 2005 and Independent on Sunday, 20 February 2005 Back

116   "The trouble with Uzbekistan", remarks by Craig Murray, Chatham House, 8 November 2004, available at: Back

117   Ibid. Back

118   "This UK diplomat says Britain is part of a worldwide torture plot", The Independent on Sunday, 20 February 2005. Back

119   "United States: Stop Handing Over Detainees to Torturers", Human Rights Watch, 7 November 2003, available at: Back

120   "Written Statement for the Record of the Director of Central Intelligence Before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States", 24 March 2004, available at: Back

121   Ibid., see also "Rule change lets CIA freely send suspects abroad to jails", The New York Times, 6 March 2005. Back

122   "Rule change lets CIA freely send suspects abroad to jails", The New York Times, 6 March 2005. Back

123   "Human Rights", US Department of State, available at: Back

124   "Rule change lets CIA freely send suspects abroad to jails", The New York Times, 6 March 2005. Back

125   "Outsourcing torture", The International Herald Tribune, 12 February 2005. Back

126   "Rule change lets CIA freely send suspects abroad to jails", The New York Times, 6 March 2005. Back

127   "How Britain helps the CIA run secret torture flights", The Independent, 10 February 2005. Back

128   Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, "The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq", March 2005, Cm 6469. Back

129   Ibid., para 77. Back

130   Ibid., para 78. Back

131   Ev 66 Back

132   For the most recent example see HC Deb, 14 March 2005, col 90W Back

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