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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Parliament misled over CIA torture flights

" Pressure over the use of British airports for secret CIA torture flights increased dramatically yesterday after it emerged that a Foreign Office minister misled Parliament over a meeting between the UN and UK civil servants about the issue.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister, misled peers when he told the House of Lords that no such meeting had ever occurred [...]

MPs and peers yesterday tightened the screw over rendition and said ministers will be summoned before a parliamentary committee to state whether they have been "wilfully ignorant" about CIA flights through UK airports.

Harriet Harman, the constitutional affairs minister, is to be called before the influential Joint Committee on Human Rights to explain whether the US has covertly flown people to states where torture or cruel and degrading treatment is used, via UK airports. The Government will also come under pressure this week from the human rights group Liberty which is to write to Mr Straw urging him to cooperate with a promised inquiry by Michael Todd, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester police.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, accused the Government of "bending over backwards not to ask questions" about rendition and said there needed to be a "positive investigation" into CIA flights which may have passed through the UK without official government permission.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee is considering summoning the Foreign Secretary to answer questions about whether Whitehall knew about the "torture flights".

In a report last year, the committee accused the Government of failing to answer questions about extraordinary rendition "with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue". The report called on the Government to "end its policy of obfuscation and that it give straight answers" to questions posed by MPs."


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