SNP urges inquiry into UK links to CIA torture

A detainee is carried on a stretcher by military police after being interrogated at Camp X-Ray. Picture: AP
A detainee is carried on a stretcher by military police after being interrogated at Camp X-Ray. Picture: AP
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THE SNP has called for a full judicial inquiry into the role of the British government and UK airports such as Prestwick and Glasgow in the “extraordinary rendition” of suspected terrorists by the CIA.

Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP at Westminster and its defence spokesman, said last week’s report by the Senate Select Committee on intelligence detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s widespread use of torture in the years after the 9/11 attacks meant a full judicial inquiry was now required to reveal the extent of the British government’s complicity.

The SNP also called for the immediate publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the invasion of Iraq, which has so far cost £9 million and is four years overdue.

Yesterday Robertson said: “Despite the appalling findings of the US Senate report about inhumane treatment of detainees, we have seen no urgency from the UK government to get to the truth on this matter.

“Sadly, this will not come as a surprise given that we have now waited four years for the Iraq inquiry report.

“A full judicial inquiry must now be established to determine what the UK government knew about the flights that passed through airports in the UK, including Scotland, and whether ministers were aware of the human rights abuses that we now know may have occurred in this country.

“I have tabled an urgent written parliamentary question that will give the foreign secretary an early opportunity to provide clarity on this matter and to set out the action he will take to ensure full transparency. The foreign secretary must also explain why we have now waited four years to find out how we were dragged into an illegal war in Iraq.”

According to an analysis by the Rendition Project, an academic study, more than 1,622 flights were made in and out of the UK by private aircraft known to have been involved in the CIA’s secret kidnap and detention programme.


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Scottish airports were used more than 100 times by the CIA’s fleet of 16 private jets. They used Scotland in seven specific rendition flights, including the transfer and subsequent torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as the mastermind of 9/11.

One CIA pilot interviewed by the journalist Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane, said that Prestwick Airport was a popular destination for refuelling stops and overnight stays as: “It’s an ‘ask-no-questions’ type of place and you don’t need to give them any advance warning you’re coming.”

A dossier of evidence compiled by the Rendition Project was passed to Police Scotland in June 2013 and Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said he was confident the police would conduct a “thorough inquiry”.

Yesterday Dr Sam Raphael, a senior lecturer at Kingston University, who helped compile the 80-page dossier said: “The evidence we have is that a whole load of aircraft that we know were involved in the rendition programme were landing at Scottish airports.

“We know they went on to secret prisons, and what we are not sure of is if they carried anybody for torture. Two men – including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who suffered horrendous torture in Poland – were brought there by an aircraft which used Scotland as a key logistical role and that is irrefutable. The key question is: who knew about it? I would welcome a judge-led inquiry to find out.”

The Senate report last week detailed how suspects were transported: “Detainees transported by the CIA by aircraft were typically hooded with their hands and feet shackled.

“The detainees wore large headsets to eliminate their ability to hear, and these headsets were typically affixed to a detainee’s head with duct tape that ran the circumference of the detainee’s head.

“CIA detainees were placed in diapers and not permitted to use the lavatory on the aircraft.

“Depending on the aircraft, detainees were either strapped into seats during the flights, or laid down and strapped to the floor of the plane horizontally like cargo.”

However, there is no evidence yet available that any prisoners were on board the CIA planes when they touched down at Scottish or British airports.

Britain had participated in extraordinary rendition prior to 9/11. In 1998 Jack Straw, the then home secretary, approved the use of a UK airport for a flight containing Mohammed al-Owhali, a Saudi suspect in a bombing in Kenya, who was being rendered to the US. The flight had been scheduled to land at Prestwick, but at the last minute it was switched to Stansted Airport.

The Foreign Office has consistently said that the government has “not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they face a real risk of torture”.

In Ghost Plane, another CIA pilot was quoted as saying: “We are the bus drivers in the war on terror.” He added that they did not call them renditions but “we just called them snatches”.

On 28 May, Sir John Chilcot wrote to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, to say that the inquiry was now giving detailed consideration to the specific quotes they wished to use from extracts of the communication between Tony Blair and George W Bush.

A statement released at the time said: “The inquiry intends to submit its report to the prime minister as soon as possible.”

David Cameron said this week: “I am not in control of when this report is published.

“This sort of report is controlled and timed by the independent inquiry board that has carried out the vital work.”


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