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26 Jun 2007 : Column 33WH—continued

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I endorse the hon. Gentleman’s recommendations to the Government, but I shall not repeat them. I wish to tell the stories of two of my constituents. I am in the unusual and undoubtedly invidious position of having two constituents who have been victims of this insidious practice. I am also chair of the all-party group on Guantánamo Bay, which is where both constituents ended up after they were picked up from various African countries.

One of those constituents, Martin Mubanga, is now home and trying to piece his life together. I saw him this week, and he still has nowhere to live. He is lucky, however, because he has dual British-Zambian citizenship, and the Government eventually got him out of Guantánamo Bay and returned him to his home just before the 2005 general election.

The other of those constituents, Jamil el-Banna, is a refugee. He is Palestinian and of Jordanian nationality, so he is effectively stateless in the context under discussion. The Government have disclaimed any responsibility for him, effectively leaving him to rot, and the worry is that he will be returned to Jordan, where he was tortured before coming to the UK. That would be an absolute disaster, so he remains in Guantánamo Bay, where he has been for four-and-a-half years, despite the US having cleared him for release a couple of months ago. The UK Government refuse to bring him home. Martin’s and Jamil’s cases are deeply disturbing, not least because in both there are serious allegations about British security service involvement in their rendition.

Martin Mubanga is an Islamic convert of Catholic parents. In October 2000 he left for Pakistan to study Islam and Arabic. He spent time in Peshawar before entering Afghanistan, studying at madrassahs in Kabul and Kandahar. He had intended to return to Britain on a flight from Karachi on 26 September 2001, and planned to travel across the border by bus, but all the buses stopped running after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He hid in Kandahar during the American bombing, and there he realised that his passport and will had gone missing. Eventually, he managed to get to Pakistan. From there, he used his Zambian passport to go to Zambia, where he was joined by his sister and stayed with family members.

In March 2002, The Sunday Times reported that Martin Mubanga had been arrested in Afghanistan, but of course he was not in Afghanistan. He was in Zambia; it was somebody travelling on his passport who had been arrested. He was eventually arrested in Zambia, held in a police station for two nights and interrogated by an American official and a British official who called himself Martin and said that he worked for MI6. The man produced Martin’s British passport, along with a list of Jewish organisations in New York and a military training manual that he claimed Martin had handwritten, and said that they had been found in a cave in Afghanistan. The handwriting in the manual did not match Martin Mubanga’s. He says that they tried to recruit him as an agent, asking him to settle in South Africa or Leeds so that he could go undercover. He refused.

In March 2002, Martin was loaded on to a plane by men in balaclavas and flown to Guantánamo Bay. He was denied the opportunity to call family members who could prove that he travelled on a valid Zambian
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passport. In October 2004, his combatant status review tribunal confirmed that the grounds for his detention were that he had travelled to Zambia on false documents and that he had been on a mission to assess targets in New York. Military lawyers later reviewed the evidence and found that it was deeply flawed. Martin was eventually cleared for release and he returned to the UK in January 2005.

Martin appears to be the first British citizen known to have been subject to rendition. Handing him to the Americans without an extradition hearing was illegal. The question is, to what extent were British agents involved? Interestingly, published flight logs show that the CIA Gulfstream executive jet used in March and April 2002 to transport Martin to Guantánamo Bay was the same jet that had visited British airports more than 20 times since 11 September 2001 and that was used to render my other constituent, Jamil el-Banna. It is curious that there is such an overlap in the two cases.

If there are questions about the involvement of British security officials in Martin’s rendition, there are many more about their involvement in Jamil el-Banna’s. Jamil el-Banna and his close friend Bisher al-Rawi, to whom the hon. Member for Chichester referred, were arrested with their travelling companions, who were both British, on their arrival in Gambia at Banjul airport. Their story began much earlier, because Bisher al-Rawi had been working as an intermediary for MI5 for many months, possibly years. I hope that when Bisher tells his story, we will know the extent of his involvement and the extent to which his handover based on information from British security officials was a breach of their relationship with him.

Bisher had been helping MI5 make contact with the radical cleric Abu Qatada. Jamil el-Banna’s contact with Abu Qatada was also known to MI5, and some of it was sanctioned. For example, when Abu Qatada was arrested, Jamil was called to taxi his wife and children home, and officials expressly thanked him at the scene. We have learned since then that MI5 had also tried to recruit Jamil el-Banna, offering him a new life and identity. He said that he did not want it; he wanted to remain where he was, because he was a family man and his five British children—four at that point—went to British schools. We have also learned since then that MI5 passed on to the US authorities the information leading directly to the men’s arrest, and that that information was deeply flawed, because the telegrams sent by the security services to the unidentifiable foreign Government have been released. They were released during court cases and investigated by the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition.

On 1 November 2002, when the two men first attempted to travel to Gambia, they were arrested by British officials who believed that an electrical device in their luggage appeared suspicious. They were released days later, claiming that the device was entirely innocent, but during the period between their first and second attempts to travel, telegrams were sent stating expressly that a suspicious device was in their luggage, that both of them were members of Abu Qatada’s circle of close friends and that Jamil was assessed to be
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Abu Qatada’s financier—a statement that even the CSRT in Guantánamo Bay rejected, I hasten to add.

The telegrams claimed that Abu Qatada had extensive links to a wide range of terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda network, and that the security services would be interested to learn whether the Gambians could cover the individuals while they were in Gambia. When the men attempted to fly again on 8 November, a telegram gave exact spellings of the men’s names for check-in, their flight details and their time of arrival, saying that this communication should be read in the light of earlier communication.

It would be hard to show that British information did not lead directly to those men’s arrest. I understand that the Intelligence and Security Committee is investigating the extent to which Britain was complicit, but surely it is not controversial to state that the information led directly to their release. Whether British intelligence knew that it would lead to their release is a matter of semantics, but it is not controversial that information provided by the British led to the men’s arrest. It is also clear from the information that has come from Guantánamo Bay that both Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna have been questioned almost exclusively on the basis of information provided by British security services.

In the months during which the two were first questioned, about a month of questioning took place in Gambia. On 8 December 2002, while habeas corpus procedures were pending, Bisher and Jamil were flown from Banjul to Kabul, where they were sent to the dark prison. It appears to have been a classic CIA rendition. They were detained by a group of seven or eight men dressed entirely in black and wearing full-face black masks. The prisoners’ clothes were cut off and they were dressed in nappies and jumpsuits and rendered aboard CIA Gulfstream jet VN379P, which began from Washington Dulles airport and then flew to Banjul. The flight left Banjul and flew to Cairo, where it refuelled, and then to Kabul in Afghanistan. Gulfstream VN379P was re-registered as N8068V, so we know which jet took them. As I said, it appears to be the same one that rendered my other constituent.

In Bagram and in the dark prison, both men were subjected to extreme torture—sleep deprivation, extremes of noise and temperature, and beatings. If you will forgive me, Mr. Illsley, I shall place on record what would otherwise be unparliamentary language. At this point, Jamil el-Banna was subjected to a threat “that they would fuck his wife”—a clear and particularly offensive threat to rape his wife in the UK. Both men allege that they were subjected to similar mistreatment in Guantánamo Bay.

A few months ago, Jamil el-Banna was finally cleared for release. I am delighted that the Minister has been willing to put on record his condemnation of Guantánamo Bay. I hope that today he will similarly put on record his condemnation of the extraordinary rendition of both my constituents, but I add that I do not want just condemnation. We have heard the British Government’s condemnation of Guantánamo Bay for some time now, but that has not forced them to act on it. My constituent remains in Guantánamo Bay, one of a number of British residents still there. If this Government really believe that Guantánamo Bay should close—if they really believe that it is so morally
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corrupt—perhaps they will finally act on that belief, bring my constituent home where he belongs and accept responsibility for him at last.

11.48 am

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): One of the poets of the first world war, when asked what he was fighting for, picked up a chunk of English earth. It graphically described what he believed. I think that if one were to ask British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan what they were fighting for, they would not do quite the same thing, but they would say that they thought they were fighting for freedom, liberty, the rule of law and democracy—for concepts important to them. If one reflects on those concepts and then on the reality of Guantánamo, one sees that it is the antithesis of everything that we in this House collectively believe in.

I voted against the war in Iraq simply as a lawyer. I believed it to be contrary to international law, not having the necessary UN approval. It is no joy to those of us who felt that way that that lack of legal authority has made the coalition’s situation throughout the conflict in Iraq very much more difficult.

Guantánamo was deliberately set up to be outside the legal structures. Only yesterday, an article in the International Herald Tribune stated:

Everyone in this House must start from the premise that deliberately setting up an extra-legal jurisdiction, to exclude individuals from the rights of law and the basic concept of habeas corpus, destroys everything in which this country has believed since Magna Carta and beyond. If a major ally pursues those policies, its approach is fundamentally flawed—and, what is more, totally counter-productive. If the United Kingdom and the United States seek to say, “We believe in democracy and have the moral high ground,” how on earth will Guantánamo play out in the refugee camps of Gaza, the streets of Peshawar or the back alleys of Kandahar? It is all completely counter-productive, and I think that we all agree on that.

Given that background of actions by the United States, the Minister has to accept that it is not a huge leap to infer reasonably, from the evidence of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather)—eye-witness evidence from UK citizens who have been rendered—that such practices have been going on.

I want to draw the attention of the House to two recent incidents; the first has not been raised until now. A couple of weeks ago, the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday reported that a US CASA 212 plane landed at RAF Mildenhall on Saturday 2 June. The flight took off from Camp Peary, which is reputed to be a CIA training facility. It was last seen in Malta, clearly close to the middle east. I understand that the plane registration number was one that the European Parliament and the Council of Europe had identified as being used to render prisoners. When the flight landed at Mildenhall, it was surrounded by US military. The Minister has to accept that each and every
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time such incidents occur, the very strong suspicion that US flights are rendering prisoners through UK airspace is further reinforced.

There are also the interesting observations of the new deputy leader and chairman of the Labour party, the former Minister at the Department of Justice; I am not sure exactly when the transition will take place. Those of us who have been in government know that one of the difficulties is reconciling lines to take. Understandably, that is a particular issue for the Foreign Office because one has to clear, around Whitehall, the position that one is taking.

We know that the Minister whom I mentioned, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), is a decent person, and I am sure that that is why she has been elected deputy leader and chairman of the Labour party. Presumably, she will become Deputy Prime Minister, but she was recently Minister at the Ministry of Justice. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) said, very recently, in that capacity, she asked for what was perceived to be a loophole in the convention on international civil aviation, known as the Chicago convention, to be closed. That loophole means that although the UK Government have to be formally notified if flights contain hazardous material or VIPs, they do not have to be notified about those that contain prisoners. To me, what she did looked like the Ministry of Justice trying to reconcile lines to take—why, otherwise, would the Minister have raised the issue at all?

It strikes me that the Minister was seeking to say to other Government Departments, “Look, the suspicion must be that the Foreign Office says that it knows nothing about anyone being rendered through UK airspace because the US Government do not have to tell us, so we officially do not know. Actually, we do know and there is heavy suspicion that it happens, so we should reconcile the situation by making it obligatory for us to be told and removing the loophole from the convention.” That was a clear signal that something is amiss—otherwise, why would the issue be raised at all?

I thought it pretty feeble of the Association of Chief Police Officers simply to look at media reports. Given that reports have been done by the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and others, it must be in the Government’s best interests to co-operate fully with the Intelligence and Security Committee so that we put the issue to bed once and for all.

The bottom line is this: clearly, rendition has been established to remove people from a civilised legal jurisdiction and take them to places where things that others would rather we did not know about—and would be unacceptable if they occurred here or in the United States—can happen. At the beginning of the 21st century, that is morally wrong and extremely short-sighted. I suspect that it puts our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in jeopardy. If we are not treating other human beings with respect, some may believe that when our soldiers are captured, they do not have to treat our men and women with respect. The situation is wrong, short-sighted and counter-productive.

The Minister is very forthright. I hope that he will condemn the practice of extraordinary rendition with the clarity and fervour with which the Prime Minister, the Foreign Office and now Ministers collectively have been condemning Guantánamo Bay.

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11.57 am

Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) on bringing this issue to the House and on all the hard work that he has done on it as chairman of the all-party group on extraordinary rendition.

We are debating an important and serious issue today. I shall come to what the hon. Gentleman said in a minute, but first I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather). She outlined two cases for which there is documented evidence of British citizens and others being rendered with the complicity and help of British intelligence services. Her evidence alone brings me to one of the two promises that I want the Minister to give today. That is that there must be, should be and has to be a full and proper inquiry into the allegations.

As has been said, we need to go further than previous inquiries, which considered only newspaper evidence. We need an inquiry that will not only take evidence from people such as those whom my hon. Friend mentioned, but go to the places from which they were rendered and conduct a proper investigation into what they allege happened to them.

Only when that has been done, and we have firm evidence, can those allegations be proved false or correct and will the point just raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Tony Baldry) be dealt with. It is a serious point. Why should other countries or groups respect international law when they can clearly claim that we—Great Britain and America—are not respecting it? Why should they not kidnap and hold people, as they currently do, if they believe that we are doing the same? It is one rule for one, and a different one for others. That is a justification that they use, and, unless we can put it to rest, it will be hard for us to argue that they are wrong and to negotiate with them on the basis that they are morally and legally wrong. In an inquiry, we would be able to say, “Yes, we have committed an error and we will correct it and ensure that it does not happen again.” However, whatever course we take, I hope that the Minister will take up that point.

The hon. Member for Chichester listed a number of cases that need to be answered. The evidence that he gave today and that he has found from his own inquiry both reinforce the need for a full and proper inquiry. I shall not address all his remarks, but he made some very good points on definition. I notice from the papers that we have been given that the definition of real torture is used, and is used even by the Minister. The foreign affairs spokesman for the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), tabled a written parliamentary question that said:

In his response the Minister used words that cause concern. He said

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However, the Minister’s departmental superiors have already accepted that there were cases of application for rendition, and as I have not seen the evidence, I would be interested to know where those people were rendered and whether their rendition to that destination might have led to a risk of torture. If the Minister cannot answer that point now, perhaps he could write to us later.

It is extraordinary that the EU has claimed that there were 1,250 CIA flights through Europe. We know of a number of flights involving the UK. My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) tabled a written parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Des Browne), that asked on what dates

In his reply, the Secretary of State answered:

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