Reprieve seeks answers over Scottish police torture flights investigation

January 9, 2017

International human rights organization Reprieve has written to the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice to ask for an update on Police Scotland’s investigation into the use of airports by CIA ‘rendition’ flights under President GW Bush.  The investigation was opened over three years ago, in response to evidence showing that CIA jets used to transport prisoners around the world to face torture had landed at Scottish airports.

Reprieve has sought clarification on whether Police Scotland have been allowed access to a full, un-redacted copy of the US Senate’s report on torture and rendition, which could hold evidence crucial to their investigation – but neither the Justice Secretary nor Scotland’s Crown Office have provided a clear answer.

The full text of the letter – sent on 17 November 2016 – is below.  A response has yet to be received.

Commenting, Reprieve’s founder, Clive Stafford Smith said:

“With torture enthusiast Donald Trump headed for the White House, the Scottish and UK Governments need to up their game.  We know that Scottish airports were used in the Bush era by CIA jets carrying out ‘rendition’ operations – which saw people flown around the world to face brutal torture in secret prisons.  The Scottish and UK Governments need to make clear to Mr Trump that this will not be tolerated ever again.

“That is why it is worrying that so little progress seems to have been made by investigations into Bush-era torture.  Ministers must ensure that the police are being fully supported, and given the information they need to do their job.  Otherwise, they will be sending a message to Donald Trump that Scotland is prepared to turn a blind eye to torture.”


Full text of letter to Michael Matheson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice:

Dear Mr Matheson,

I am writing from human rights charity Reprieve with regard to the Police Scotland investigation into the use of Scottish airports by CIA rendition flights, which I understand to be ongoing.

Given the election in the US of a President who has called for the use of torture “much stronger than waterboarding,” I hope you will agree with me that this issue is now more pressing than ever.  It is crucial that Scotland gets to the bottom of any involvement in the Bush-era rendition programme – which saw prisoners flown around the world to face horrific torture – and in doing so demonstrates that it will not tolerate a return to this shameful chapter in recent history.

As you may be aware, Reprieve has previously corresponded with your office and the Crown Office regarding the Police Scotland investigation.

Specifically, we asked whether a request had been made for a full, un-redacted version of the landmark report on CIA torture produced by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in 2014; in June last year, the Crown Office confirmed that such a request had been made, but no response had been received.  The Crown Office declined to answer questions on how or to whom that request had been made, as (to the best of my knowledge) did your own office when questioned on the matter in Parliament.

I was hoping that you might be able to clarify the following points for me:

  • Is the Police Scotland investigation into renditions still underway?
  • Have the police made any recommendations, either preliminary or final, to the Crown Office?
  • Has any answer yet been received from the US to the request for a full, unredacted copy of the torture report; and if so, what was that answer?
  • If no request has been received, and given the request was made before May 2015, what steps will the Scottish Government take to support that request?
  • Beyond the police investigation, what steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that Scotland does not become involved in US torture should President-elect Trump revive the practice? And what representations have Scottish ministers made or will they make to the President-elect regarding the unacceptability of his proposals on torture?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,

Donald Campbell

Director of Communications