Scotland: New report demands investigation into rendition of UK residents

Family and Lib Dem MP issue fresh call for action over UK residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, still held at Guantánamo

Amnesty International today (14 June) issued a call for an investigation into the UK’s role in the ‘rendition’ of two UK residents, as it released a new report on rendition flights operated by the US secret intelligence service, the CIA.

The two men - Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national resident of Kingston near London, and Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian refugee and also a long-term resident of London - were arrested on a business trip in Gambia in 2002.

After interrogation by Gambian intelligence, the men were apparently handed over to US agents who allegedly threatened one of the men with sexual torture and held the pair in several undisclosed locations for nearly three months before secretly transferring them to Afghanistan. The following month they were again secretly flown to the military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, where they have now been held without charge or trial for over three years.

Amnesty International’s report, ‘Partners in crime: Europe’s role in US rendition’ highlights the role of European countries in the USA’s secret programme of abduction, illegal transfer, exposure to torture and long-term indefinite detention of prisoners in the ‘war on terror’.

In the case of Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna’s rendition, the report focuses on the UK’s alleged role - including the secret intelligence service, MI5. Mr El-Banna has claimed that US interrogators told him that “Britain sold you out to the CIA”, a claim denied by UK officials. Forced to address the question in a recent court case, the UK authorities have repeated this denial while agreeing to petition for Mr Al-Rawi’s release, apparently in acknowledgement of his involvement with the intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile last week Tony Blair dismissed parliamentary questions about rendition, saying “we have said absolutely all that we have to say on this.”

Amnesty International’s Programme Director for Scotland, Rosemary Burnett said:

“There is growing evidence to suggest not only that UK airports, including airports in Scotland, may have facilitated secret CIA rendition flights, but also that British agents have aided and abetted the US in these human rights abuses.

“Again we call on the Scottish Executive to launch its own inquiry into possible Scottish involvement in frightening abductions and illegal detentions - and the Scottish Parliament must ensure the strongest possible call on Westminster to do the same.”

Sabah el-Banna, wife of Jamil el-Banna, said:

“All I’ve ever wanted is basic justice for my husband. If the United States has evidence about Jamil then why don’t they put him on trial?

“The US government’s behaviour is a disgrace and so is Tony Blair’s. It’s obvious that British intelligence was involved in my husband being taken to Guantánamo and yet our government is pretending it’s nothing to do with them.”

Bisher al-Rawi’s MP Edward Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, has been campaigning for justice for his constituent. Mr Davey said:

“Shamefully it’s taken years for the government to even acknowledge that they have a duty to demand Bisher’s release or at least a fair trial.

“The British government was complicit in the original arrest of Bisher and thereby his illegal rendition and detention.

“From my discussions with the US State Department I believe Bisher would not be in Guantánamo Bay but for incorrect or highly questionable intelligence supplied by the UK authorities.”

Besides Mr Al-Rawi and Mr El-Banna’s case, Amnesty International’s report examines several specific US renditions - each apparently involving complicity from other European countries, including Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Bosnia and Macedonia.

Amnesty International’s report comes ahead of an EU summit meeting on 15 June and the organisation is calling for the role of EU states in rendition to be addressed at the summit. Last week the Council of Europe’s ongoing investigation into renditions published its draft report implicating 14 European countries in the “spider’s web” of CIA rendition.

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