Rendition of terrorist suspects
88. Some of the methods of gathering intelligence
in the war against terrorism raise concerns about respect for
human rights and compliance with international obligations. This
issue has gained prominence following allegations by Craig Murray,
the United Kingdom's former Ambassador in Uzbekistan, about the
use of information gained through torture. Speaking about Uzbekistan,
Mr Murray has said that he has "no doubt that the United
Kingdom is receiving information that has been obtained under
In a speech in November 2004, Mr Murray expanded on his concerns:
Many of my colleagues in other countries must also
be seeing intelligence obtained under torture. The US State Department
briefing says that torture is used as "A routine investigative
technique" by the Uzbek security services. Theo van Boven,
UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, found it to be "Widespread
and systemic". Nobody in the British government has attempted
to argue to me that the information we receive from the Uzbek
sources was not obtained under torture. Rather they argue that
we did not encourage or instigate the torture, so are not complicit.
That might be a valid argumentand I repeat mightif
we stumbled on the material in the street, or got handed some
as a one off. But it is not sustainable where we regularly receive
such material through an established system. That must make us
89. Mr Murray has also raised the policy of 'extraordinary
rendition'the deliberate transfer of terrorist suspects
to foreign countries for interrogation, knowing that torture may
be used. Mr Murray has told the press that: "There is increasing
evidence that America is shipping people round the world to be
I saw it in Uzbekistan because I happened to be
there, but it's also happening in countries like Egypt and Saudi
90. The practice of transferring terrorist suspects
to foreign countries for interrogation which could lead to information
being obtained under torture is not new. Human Rights Watch has
been documenting and campaigning against the practice for a number
of years. In November 2003, Human Rights Watch called on President
Bush to "end the transfer of detainees to countries that
routinely engage in torture, such as Syria, if he is to fulfil
his pledge to champion democracy and human rights in the Middle
East and honor the United States' international legal obligations."
91. The US has transferred prisoners from one country
to another, without formal extradition proceedings, for some years.
In testimony to the 9/11 Commission in 2004, George Tenet, former
head of the CIA, said that: "The Center [CIA counter-terrorism
center] has racked up many successes, including the rendition
of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001."
Tenet had previously put the number of cases of rendition prior
to 11 September 2001 at 70.
92. The Bush administration has refused to confirm
the policy of extraordinary rendition. However, a recent report
by the New York Times cites former government officials who claim
that since 11 September 2001, the CIA has flown 100-150 suspected
terrorists from one foreign country to another, including Egypt,
Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan.Extraordinary
rendition raises serious concerns about human rights abuses: according
to the US State Department's annual human rights report, the countries
to which the US is transferring suspects use torture in their
prisons. A number
of former detainees have described being subjected to coercive
interrogation techniques and brutal treatment while in detention.
According to press reports, former detainees have been subjected
to electric shocks, have been beaten, shackled and humiliated.
93. As well as raising serious human rights concerns,
the practice risks jeopardising calls by the international community
for democratic reform and respect of human rights in the Arab
and Islamic worlds. For example, increased pressure on Syria to
reform comes at the same time as reports about the extraordinary
rendition of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian national. Mr Arar
was seized by US authorities in New York in September 2002 and
taken to Syria for interrogation. He was released in October 2003;
no charges were brought against him and he returned to Canada.
Mr Arar has said that he was subjected to beatings while in Syria.
94. There are allegations that the United Kingdom
is complicit in the US policy of extraordinary rendition. Not
only is it suggested that information provided by the United Kingdom
has led to the capture and eventual torture of terrorist suspects,
but there are also reports that British facilities have been made
available to two 'executive jets' that are used by the CIA to
carry out renditions.
Following Mr Murray's allegations, there are also concerns that
the United Kingdom may be making use of intelligence gained as
a result of extraordinary rendition.
95. In March, the Intelligence and Security Committee
published a report on "The Handling of Detainees by UK Intelligence
Personnel in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq".
The report does not refer to extraordinary rendition, but does
make reference to 'ghost detainees', which it describes as "individuals
that the US authorities are holding at undisclosed locations under
unknown conditions and to whom the International Committee of
the Red Cross does not have access."
The report notes that the Security Service informed them that
they had "received intelligence of the highest value from
detainees, to whom we have not had access and whose location is
unknown to us, some of which has led to the frustration of terrorist
attacks in the UK or against UK interests."
96. On 25 February, we wrote to the FCO about extraordinary
rendition. We asked the Government:
- whether the United Kingdom
has used extraordinary rendition or any other practice of sending
suspects to third countries for interrogation;
- whether the United Kingdom has allowed any other
country to use its territory or its airspace for such purposes
or received information which has been gained using these methods;
- whether the Government regards the use of such
methods as (a) legally and (b) morally acceptable?
97. In its response to this letter, the Government
The British Government's policy is not to deport
or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial
grounds to believe that the person will be subject to torture
or where there is a real risk that the death penalty will be applied.
Whether rendition is contrary to international law depends on
the particular circumstances of each case. We encourage all members
of the international community to respect international law and
human rights standards
The British Government is not aware
of the use of its territory or airspace for the purposes of "extraordinary
rendition". The British Government has not received any requests,
nor granted any permissions, for the use of UK territory or airspace
for such purposes
As you will be aware, this issue was the
subject of a comprehensive inquiry by the Intelligence and Security
Committee, whose report (CM6469) has just been published. Ministers
have also answered a number of Parliamentary questions on this.
This response does not provide a satisfactory answer
to our questions. Similarly, parliamentary questions put by a
Member of this Committee have met with obfuscation.
98. We conclude that the Government has failed
to deal with questions about extraordinary rendition with the
transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue.
If the Government believes that extraordinary rendition is a valid
tool in the war against terrorism, it should say so openly and
transparently, so that it may be held accountable. We recommend
that the Government end its policy of obfuscation and that it
give straight answers to the Committee's questions of 25 February.