Questions for UK Government over claims “heavy weather” destroyed renditions evidence

July 17, 2014

Claims made by the Government that possible evidence of UK involvement in renditions held in Diego Garcia was damaged by “extremely heavy weather” last month have been questioned by legal charity Reprieve, in the light of independent weather records suggesting there was no heavy rain during the period.

Foreign Office ministers Mark Simmonds and Tobias Ellwood both told MPs this week that “extremely heavy weather in June 2014” had damaged flight records held in Diego Garcia, a British territory which the Government has admitted was used by CIA aircraft carrying detainees as part of its programme of ‘extraordinary rendition.’

However,  records from a US commercial weather service suggest that there was no heavy rain during June this year: 17mm is recorded as the highest rainfall for any day in the month; and the total rainfall for the month is 82mm – a relatively low figure, given annual rainfall for Diego Garcia is 2591mm (an average of around 216mm per month).

The documents could provide important evidence of the detail and extent of the CIA’s use of Diego Garcia for rendition flights.  Although the British Government admitted in 2008 that two such flights had landed on the island in 2002, there remain questions over other years.  One notable example is 2004, when there is evidence – contained in a flight plan found in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi – that the Agency sought to fly via Diego Garcia in order to ‘render’ a Gaddafi opponent and his pregnant wife to the dictator’s Libyan prisons.  Ministers have however refused to say whether the CIA sought the UK’s permission to make use of the island.

Mr Belhadj and his wife Fatima Boudchar are bringing a case against the British Government over its role in the operation, which will be heard in the Court of Appeal in London this Monday (21 July).

Reprieve is calling for the full range of documents to be handed over to Parliament and made publicly available without delay.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve, said: “It’s unclear what exactly the Foreign Office means by heavy weather. Perhaps there is a micro-climate over the hut on Diego Garcia where all the embarrassing files are kept? In any event, it’s hardly an answer to say they’ve got out a hair dryer and patched the roof; the FCO needs to hand the documents over to Parliament, before some other invisible monsoon strikes.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell: donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8166

2. Weather Underground, a commercial weather service based in the US, has records of precipitation for June 2014, available here: http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/FJDG/2014/6/1/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA

3. According to the US Navy, average yearly precipitation for Diego Garcia is 102 inches, or 2591mm: http://www.public.navy.mil/fcc-c10f/nctsfedetdg/Pages/History.aspx