UK stalls publication of CIA rendition flights records
April 8, 2015
The UK Government is continuing to delay the publication of flight records which could hold evidence of the use of British territory by CIA ‘torture flights’ – over eight months after it said it was “assessing their suitability for publication.”
The Government has previously admitted that Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, was used by two CIA ‘rendition’ jets carrying prisoners in 2002. The rendition programme saw prisoners flown around the world in order to be subjected to torture at secret prisons known as ‘black sites.’
However, since making the admission in 2008, successive British administrations have failed to publish flight records which could shed further light on the role played in the rendition programme by the island.
After it emerged last July that the flight records had suffered ‘water damage,’ then-Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds told the House of Commons that he had “asked officials to review the contents of the material, with a view to assessing their suitability for publication.” However, in a March, 2015 letter to human rights NGO Reprieve, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire wrote that “we are still assessing the suitability of the full flight records for publication.”
Calls for the documents to be published have been renewed in the wake of revelations by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff that Diego Garcia hosted “a transit site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated from time to time.” Lawrence Wilkerson, who worked for Mr Powell from 2002-05, told Vice News in January this year that “you might have a case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a month, or two weeks, or whatever, and you do your nefarious activities there.”
Commenting, Donald Campbell from Reprieve said: “It is now over seven years since the UK Government was forced to admit that CIA torture flights were allowed to use the British territory of Diego Garcia, yet we still seem no closer to the publication of flight records which could provide crucial evidence of what went on.
“Last summer, after the records reportedly suffered ‘accidental’ water damage, ministers promised that they were ‘assessing their suitability for publication.’ Eight months later, they say they are still ‘assessing.’ It is hard to see how such a long delay could be justified. We need to see full publication of those records without delay, in order to reassure the public that Britain is not involved in the cover-up of torture evidence.”
Notes to editors
- For further information, please contact Donald Campbell at Reprieve: +44 (0) 207 553 8140 / donald[DOT]campbell[AT]reprieve[DOT]org[DOT]uk
- For Mr Simmonds’ statement on the publication of the flight records, see Hansard, 21 July 2014 : Column 873W. Mr Swire’s letter to Reprieve is available on request.
- Mr Wilkerson’s comments to Vice News can be found here.