The British government has claimed that documents relating to the UK’s involvement in global rendition have been permanently damaged.
In a statement condemned by human rights groups as a "cover up", Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds claimed that flight records from Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, had been destroyed due to water damage, and that the remaining records held by the government were “incomplete”.
The statement was made following a question posed by the chair of the treasury select committee, Andrew Tyrie, who has been investigating the UK’s involvement in rendition for several years.
The destruction of these Diego Garcia records may fall short of exonerating the British government from allegations of complicity in CIA extraordinary rendition - particularly in light of a soon-to-be published US Senate document that exposes UK-US collusion on the matter. The document reportedly reveals the British foreign territory hosted rendition flights and was subject to a special zone for interrogating Al-Qaeda suspects post 9/11.
500 pages in length, it will summarize the findings of a Senate investigation into CIA kidnapping and torturing of terror suspects. It will also assert that according to anonymous US officials, a secret prison was created on the Island with “full co-operation” of the British government.
Ministers in successive governments have repeatedly come under pressure to expose the truth behind the UK’s involvement in US anti-terror initiatives, and have been accused of misleading Parliament in regards to extraordinary rendition.
In February 2008, then foreign secretary David Miliband was forced to admit in the House of Commons that Diego Garcia had been used for at least two rendition flights, although he denied that anyone on board the planes had disembarked.
Last month, MPs demanded the Government wage negotiations with US authorities who wish to renew America’s lease of Diego Garcia in 2016. They also called for the Government to put in place new measures whereby US authorities must seek approval for military operations or rendition flights within the British-owned territory.
The foreign affairs select committee has suggested it will re-visit the issues of Britain’s alleged role in extraordinary rendition if the pending US Senate report exposes concrete evidence of UK involvement in the CIA programme.
RT probed the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) on whether they were formally investigating the damage of these files. An FCO spokesman said on Thursday:
"We are investigating how and when the water damage occurred, and what information may have been lost, and whether copies exist elsewhere. We have already identified that copies of flight arrival and departure logs for that period are held in London to replace any records of that type that were lost on Diego Garcia."
When queried as to whether the FCO believes there were multiple instances of rendition in Diego Garcia, he said:
"Regardless of what files are retained, the US assure us annually that aside from the two instances of rendition through Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory) in 2002, there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our overseas Territories, or the Crown Dependencies, with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001."