166. One obstacle to obtaining clear evidence that
a particular flight is transporting a detainee as part of a rendition
is the current lack of a requirement for chartered civil aircraft
passing through the UK to provide lists of passengers on board.
Ms Harman confirmed that such information was not required or
recorded. We note,
however, that there is nothing in the Chicago Convention which
would prevent the UK from requiring transiting civil aircraft
to provide such information. Given the potential for abuse of
free passage for civil aircraft under the Chicago Convention,
by aircraft involved in extraordinary renditions, we recommend
that the Government should take steps to require staff and passenger
lists to be provided to the UK authorities when chartered civil
aircraft land at UK airports, or transit UK airspace. In the long
term, if effective unilateral Government action is not taken,
there would be a case for amendment of the Chicago Convention,
to require the provision of passenger lists.
167. In relation to the question of whether there
have been extraordinary renditions in the past few years using
UK airspace or airports, and the extent to which the Government
should initiate an investigation, we note that the Government
has recently rejected the view of the House of Commons Foreign
Affairs Committee that it is under a duty to enquire into the
allegations of extraordinary rendition and black sites under the
Convention against Torture. In its response to the Foreign Affairs
Committee's Annual Report on Human Rights for 2005, the Government
states that a "search of all relevant records" has not
found any evidence of detainees being rendered through UK airspace
since 11 September 2001, and that in the absence of such evidence
it does not consider that there is a requirement under Article
12 UNCAT for it to carry out a further investigation.
This accords with the Government's view expressed in evidence
to us, as described above.
168. We consider that there is now a reasonable suspicion
that certain aircraft passing through the UK may have been carrying
suspects to countries where they may have faced torture, or to
have been returning from rendering suspects to such countries.
This reasonable suspicion is in our view sufficient to trigger
the duty to investigate, and to look behind the assurances received
from foreign Governments. It follows that we do not accept
the Government's view that, by the means described in its response
to the Foreign Affairs Committee, it has adequately demonstrated
that it has satisfied the obligation under domestic and international
human rights law to investigate credible allegations of renditions
of suspects through the UK to face torture abroad. In order to
satisfy the obligation to investigate in relation to possible
renditions to face torture which may already have taken place,
we believe the Government should now take active steps to ascertain
more details about the flights which it is now known used UK airports,
including, in relation to each flight, who was on them, and their
precise itinerary and the purpose of their journey. If evidence
of extraordinary renditions come to light from such investigations,
the Government should report such evidence promptly to Parliament.
169. We recognise that there are growing calls
for an independent public inquiry into alleged use of UK airports
in extraordinary renditions, and that the piecemeal way in which
information has so far reached the public domain does not inspire
confidence in the Government's willingness to investigate, but
nevertheless we consider that such an inquiry would be premature.
Whether a public inquiry is necessary should be determined in
light of the extent to which inquiries by the Government leads
to the publication of the detailed information required.
170. For the future, in addition to the steps
which the Government has taken to make its position on extraordinary
renditions clear to the United States authorities,
we believe the Government should establish a clear policy as to
the action to be taken in cases where aircraft alleged to have
been previously involved in renditions transit the UK. Where there
are credible allegations arising from previous records that a
particular civil aircraft transiting UK airspace has been involved
in renditions, and where the aircraft is travelling to or from
a country known to practise torture or inhuman or degrading treatment,
it should be required to land. Where such an aircraft lands at
a UK airport for refuelling or similar purposes, it should be
required to provide a full list of all those on board, both staff
and passengers. On landing, it should be boarded and searched
by the police, and the identity of all those on board verified.
Wherever appropriate, a criminal investigation should be initiated.
Where an aircraft suspected of involvement in extraordinary renditions
identifies itself as a state aircraft, it should not be permitted
to transit UK airspace, in the absence of permission for UK authorities
to search the aircraft. We consider that these steps are not only
permitted by the current law, but required to ensure full compliance
with the Convention Against Torture.