Ministers silent on CIA flights to transport terror suspects

By Richard Norton-Taylor and David Hencke in The Guardian

MPs stepped up pressure on ministers yesterday to disclose details of CIA aircraft using British airfields amid reports that they have transported individuals to foreign countries where they are likely to be tortured.

Ministers are refusing to reveal any information about the “extraordinary rendition” flights despite evidence, including details of the flights, revealed in September by the Guardian. Extraordinary rendition is the practice of transferring individuals to a foreign country where they are more likely to be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.

Ministers have shed no further light on the issue, despite a series of questions tabled by MPs, notably the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell. There is evidence that a CIA Gulfstream and Boeing 737 aircraft have landed at military airfields, including RAF Northolt, west London.

Adam Ingram, the defence minister, has told Sir Menzies: “Where passengers do not leave the airfield, the MoD … does not record details of passengers.” But he adds that the MoD maintains a record of all civil registered aircraft – such as the CIA planes – landing at military airfields.

“The British government appears to be adopting a hear no evil, see no evil policy towards this issue,” Sir Menzies said yesterday.

He added: “In the light of the allegations that British airports are being used as staging posts for rendition, the government should instigate an immediate investigation.”

Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, who is setting up a cross-party backbench committee with Sir Menzies and the former Labour Foreign Office minister Chris Mullin to investigate the allegations, told the Guardian: “It is morally repugnant that any country could be involved in this foul practice.”

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the deputy Foreign Office legal adviser who resigned in protest against the invasion of Iraq, said: “If the reports are true and the UK was actively assisting, then it would be responsible under the law.”