Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Thursday, 5 November 2009

Toughen laws on rendition say MPs

Boeing jet allegedly used in CIA flight to Spain (2004 file)
MPs say that the practice of rendition falls through the legal net

New laws are needed to prohibit any future UK involvement in the practice of extraordinary rendition, an all-party group of MPs says.

Persistent claims that detainees have been transferred through UK airspace to countries where they are at risk of torture have led to calls for action.

MPs say laws on kidnap and torture are inadequate and the use of UK facilities for rendition must be outlawed.

The Foreign Office has yet to comment on the report.

Allegations

The practice of extraordinary rendition - in which terrorist suspects are moved from one country to another for interrogation and possible imprisonment without legal protection - is highly controversial.

In February 2008, Foreign Secretary David Miliband acknowledged that two US rendition flights, with detainees on board, had refuelled at the British dependency of Diego Garcia.

Up until then, the British government had insisted there was no evidence that rendition flights had stopped on UK territory and it expected the US to seek its permission before rendering detainees through its airspace.

English law has been insufficient to prevent UK involvement in extraordinary rendition
Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP

A year later, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that two people captured by UK forces in Iraq and handed over to the US authorities had been subsequently taken to Afghanistan.

In both cases, the government said there was no evidence that the detainees concerned had been mistreated.

Torture and kidnap are banned under UK law, but MPs say that aiding and abetting rendition is not currently an offence.

The absence of specific laws mean there is no effective deterrent and prosecutions cannot realistically be brought, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition says.

Criminalising various acts, such as the use of British airports for rendition flights and the failure of airport owners to prevent this happening, would "close the gap" in existing laws, they believe.

Public confidence

So-called "circuit flights" - aircraft which are empty at the time but designed for the purpose of rendition in future - should also be banned from UK territory, they add.

"English law has been insufficient to prevent UK involvement in extraordinary rendition," said Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, the group's chairman.

"These proposals will buttress existing law and, if implemented, they will give the public greater confidence that Britain is not complicit in extraordinary rendition."

Mr Tyrie acknowledged the proposals were limited and would not cover actions which could give rise to rendition such as intelligence sharing between countries and co-operation between security services.

But he insisted that strengthening the law "would enable the UK to take the lead internationally in providing a more effective prohibition against extraordinary rendition".

Prominent lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, who has represented former British detainees at Guantanamo Bay, welcomed the committee's proposals - which will now be subject to consultation.

"Recent events have show that our law is not effective to prohibit the evils of rendition," he said.

"If the government is serious about its criticisms of this lawless activity, it should consider the proposals immediately."



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