The use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is prohibited under human rights law, as is the outsourcing of torture to other states. Extraordinary rendition is the deliberate apprehension and transfer of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation, outside of the law, where there is a risk that the person might be tortured or subjected to other ill-treatment. It is also illegal in human rights law.
The practice of extraordinary rendition means that people are taken outside the democratic jurisdiction of the UK in order to torture them and we now know that during the ‘War on Terror’ many people were unlawfully transferred from one territory to another in circumstances where they were subjected to torture, horrendous conditions of imprisonment and ill-treatment. The United Nations Committee Against Torture has said it believes extraordinary rendition has taken place on a significant scale, and there is evidence of hundreds of CIA flights over Europe.
In February 2008, the last Labour Government acknowledged that UK airspace and territory (on the small island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean) had been used for extraordinary rendition flights. In March 2008 officials stated they were unsure how many other times such flights had passed through UK airspace. This is despite previously consistent denials by the Government of any use of UK airspace.
On 27 February 2009 the UK Government admitted that it had yet again misled Parliament over extraordinary rendition, acknowledging that UK forces had handed over individuals in Iraq to US authorities who then illegally rendered them to an Afghan prison known for its inhuman conditions.
On 6 July 2010, the Prime Minister announced an inquiry, to be chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, into allegations of British complicity in torture. However, when the Evidence Protocol for the inquiry was finally published in July 2011, it was clear that the crucial final word on whether material could be made public rested not with a Judge but with the Cabinet Secretary, the Government’s chief civil servant. It was also made clear that the Government proposed torture victims would not be able to put questions to those allegedly complicit in their abuse – even by way of their legal representatives. In light of this, all the non-governmental organisations involved the torture victims withdrew their participation from the process.
On 18 January 2012, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke scrapped the Gibson Inquiry, claiming that it could not go on while the criminal investigation into UK involvement in rendition to Libya continued.
The Justice and Security Act has made drastic changes to our system of justice and fair trials. The Act not only overturns centuries of common law fair trial protections for those seeking to challenge the actions of the state, but also undermines the vital constitutional principle that no one is above the law, including the Government.
The Conservative manifesto pledged to retain Human Rights legislation for the next Parliament but last night (7th June 2017) Theresa May announced that “if our human rights laws get in the way of doing it, we will change the law so we can do it.” and she also said that “I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terrorist suspects back to their own countries.” As the Government already has the power to do this in normal circumstances, it can only mean that she intends to resume extraordinary rendition.
You may be a person who agrees with Extraordinary Rendition, I am not, but the question to ask yourself is this, if the Prime Minister is prepared to rip up the commitments in her manifesto, then how can we trust her to protect any rights of the British People?
Benjamin Franklyn once wrote “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
After both Manchester and London the call of the people was to not let the murderers change us, and yet the Prime Minister is proposing to do exactly that, for if we become again complicit in torture then we abandon the civil state that we have become and return to the cruelty of the past.
If this human right is crushed then which is next? How long will it be before we are fighting again for freedom of assembly, or the right to strike or the right to protest?
Theresa May has declared that she will cross the line, but remember that the line she is prepared to cross is one that the Labour Party have also violated.
Tomorrow Britons have a duty to prevent the ripping up of our human rights.