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5 March 2009 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

Unravelling ‘extraordinary rendition’

HE was kept naked in a dark prison in Kabul and a torture chamber in Morocco before he was sent to Guantánamo. Binyam Mohamed arrived back in England last week barely alive after years of sleep deprivation, beatings, being hung from ceilings by a leather strap, and having his penis cut with a razor blade.
Torture is illegal in every country in the world yet ‘extraordinary rendition’ (a fancy name for the kidnapping and torture of human beings by the US and British intelligence services) is being used in collaboration with governments who claim to be civilised and democratic. Humanity has taken a step back to the dark ages and the days of the Third Reich.
It has taken nine years for the British Government to admit that they have colluded with the US in the torture of suspects kidnapped by the CIA and transported to secret prisons all over the globe.
Last week, Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that the British Government has permitted extraordinary rendition flights to US ‘black site’ prisons to land and refuel at British airports. He explained that two US planes carrying suspects for interrogation to secret prisons had landed on British-ruled territory on the island of Diego Garcia, 1,000 miles off the southern coast of India.
Ever economical with the truth, the British Foreign Secretary apologised and said that previous denials from the British Government that they had facilitated the use of rendition for torture were made “in good faith”.
In the same week, British Defence Secretary John Hutton disclosed that ‘terror’ suspects handed over in Iraq to the US were flown out of the country for interrogation elsewhere. The British have insisted that they played no part in what Hutton described as this “controversial practice” although he admitted that details were sent to two Cabinet members at the time: then Home Secretary Charles Clarke and then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Hutton also apologised to the House of Commons for misleading statements made by the Government in the past.
It is now clear that the British Government have lied about their role in torture during the last eight years, much in the same way that they lied about torture in the North during internment. 
They are now admitting what the rest of the world suspected for some time — that they have been assisting the CIA since 2001 to systematically kidnap human beings and transport them to hidden torture centres in Egypt, Jordan, and eastern European countries, where most of them have simply disappeared into CIA-run hellholes.
A retired US General Barry McCaffrey, Professor of International Studies at West Point Military Academy, recently admitted publicly the use of Diego Garcia in the detention and processing of what he termed ‘high-value detainees’. He also claimed that the US were holding some 3,000 people at Bagram Airfield, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo and about 16 camps throughout Iraq.
The programme of extraordinary rendition has not only been facilitated by the British but also by the Dublin Government, who have allowed the torturers the use of both Shannon and Baldonnel airports to transport their human cargo to indescribable pain and terror. At least the British have now owned up.
The human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who delivered the Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture in Derry this year and who represents many of the detainees, has called on the British Government to release the names of those suspects whose whereabouts are now causing concern in human rights circles.

The Dublin Government have allowed the torturers the use of both Shannon and Baldonnel airports to transport their human cargo 


Smith, who is the director of the legal charity, Reprieve, believes that many of the detainees are in danger of summary execution to cover up the fact they have been tortured. The CIA have admitted they have destroyed 90 tapes detailing the forms of torture used. Now why would they have done that? We need a credible, independent international tribunal to uncover the truth.

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