So the British government has admitted that they’ve twice been in breach of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances over extraordinary rendition flights. And Foreign Secretary David Miliband has – bless him – said sorry for the “accidental” misinformation.
Not, of course, sorry to the people being extraordinarily rendered, whoever they might be – nor for breaking international law…
And our dear Prime Minister has also weighed in, eloquence personified (is he getting lessons from Donald Rumsfeld?)
It is unfortunate that this was not known and it was unfortunate it happened without us knowing that it had happened but it’s important to put in procedures [to ensure] this will not happen again… We share the disappointment that everybody has about what’s actually happened
But admitting a couple of flights landing in transit on the remote UK territory of Diego Garcia is somewhat different to the main accusation – that the UK itself was used as a stop-off point. What about the 73 to 200 other flights that our current beleaguered Chancellor – as Transport Secretary – and the National Air Traffic Service noted had been identified by campaigners as having potentially been used for rendition back in March 2006?
The question asked two years ago by Lib Dem MP Michael Moore (no relation), and quoted in that last linked piece, remains entirely pertinent:
A fundamental question remains unanswered. Has the UK government actually asked the United States how many individuals have been rendered through Britain? If this hasn’t been asked, then why on earth not?
Saying sorry for a couple of accidental (honest, m’lud) breaches of international law is all very well and good. But what about the other 200 potential rendition flights via the UK itself?
As I noted a year and a bit back, the UN regulations on “enforced disappearances” (aka state kidnappings), explicitly state that:
Acts constituting enforced disappearance shall be considered a continuing offence as long as the perpetrators continue to conceal the fate and the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared and these facts remain unclarified [emphasis mine]
Now that the British government has admitted that it hasn’t got a clue what’s going on, can we expect a full and thorough independent inquiry? Because not to investigate further having admitted incompetence on this issue would, surely, be to stick two fingers up at the UN by refusing to clarify the issue, and thus to deliberately stay in breach of international law.
Plus, as the EU’s investigation into extraordinary renditionnoted:
It is implausible, on the basis of the testimonies and documents received, that certain European governments were not aware of the activities linked to extraordinary rendition on their territory
Yet this appears to be precisely what David Miliband is claiming to be the case.
And so another question must be asked: if a foreign power can land an illegal cargo on British territory without the British government’s knowledge – as appears to be the excuse here – that flagrant lapse in security is in itself surely worthy of immediate, urgent investigation? Isn’t that an indication of criminal incompetence at a time of heightened threats from foreign sources? Shouldn’t heads roll?
I await the announcement of an inquiry with baited breath… (And precisely no expectation of one coming…)
Update: This. Spot on, from the really rather good Obsolete.