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How far was the UK complicit in CIA rendition and torture?

cia emblemThe report published today by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein,  makes horrifying, even disgusting, reading.   The tactics used against prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay or foreign CIA  black sites (i.e. torture chambers) included water-boarding (simulated drowning), ‘rectal rehydration’ (leading to anal fissures and rectal prolapse), sleep deprivation for a week or more imposed on those shackled, forced to stand and naked, hooding, iced-water immersion, slamming against walls, and threats of sexual and physical violence against prisoners’ families.

The Senate committee also notes that at least 26 of the detainees were ‘wrongfully held’, and the evidence used against them was often based on hearsay or mere rumour. In extreme cases Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times, and Abu Zubaydah 83 times who emerged an utterly broken man – maybe the aim of the exercise. This was justified by the CIA on the grounds that the information extorted by torture ‘saved lives’ by revealing future plots. The Senate committee after years of investigation stated it could find not a single case of this kind, only that torture revealed false information (anything to stave off further torture) or information already gleaned by more traditional forms of intelligence gathering.

How involved was the UK and other European countries in US rendition and black sites (intended for ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, i.e. torture, beyond the reach of international law)? Even now only a fraction of the relevant information has been made available, just 600 pages subject to redaction out of the full 6,000 pages of the Senate report.   That is enough to show that least 54 countries, more than a quarter of all the countries in the world, co-operated with the CIA, including 21 European of which 17 were in the EU. That included the UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Greece, Czech Republic, and Croatia.   Mainly they were complicit in aiding CIA rendition flights, but black sites are known to have been sited in Poland, Romania, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

The UK government has always denied any involvement, though lying to escape opprobrium over highly toxic issues such as this is a regular ploy – until the evidence becomes so strong that it can’t be denied any longer.   It has been repeatedly asserted – but denied by the Foreign Office – that the UK Dependency of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was used as a staging post for US renditions.   What is now known for certain, as a result of documents unexpectedly found in a Libyan ministry in Tripoli, is that Britain played a direct role in the US seizure of Belhaj (an opponent of Gadaffi) and his wife and knowingly handed them over to the torture chambers in Tripoli.   But for every Belhaj, whom we only know about by accident, how many dozens or even hundreds


  1. Robert says:

    Who cares our young men and women who died, died for a lie any way if that is not bad enough we have this crap.

    Sorry but the wars which Blair states we won we actually lost and now we are to scared to return to help them because we have no money.

    New labour.

  2. swatantra says:

    Complicit … but one step removed. We don’t actually torture but stay silent or assist those that do torture. But usually there are good grounds for apprehending possible suspects and passing them onto those afriends of ours that have been harmed. After that we turn a blind eye as did Nelson; we have no lips to speak eyes to see or ears to hear. It depends on the circumstances really. wWe should not let those that wih us hram to get away with pleading Human Rights. Their rights to nall circumstances havr=e been forfeited by the illegal and dreadful actions they have engaged in. That should be the presumption. If we are to win on this war on Terror.

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