Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rights group sues UK government over "rendition"

Human rights lawyers took legal action against the British government on Tuesday, accusing it of involvement in the illegal transfer of a terrorism suspect from Indonesia to Egypt where they say he was tortured.

Reprieve, a British-based rights group, says Britain knowingly allowed Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni to be transferred from Jakarta to Egypt via a U.S. airbase on Diego Garcia, a British-ruled island in the Indian Ocean, in 2002.

Once in Egypt, Madni says he was tortured with cattle prods for three months and then sent to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he was held for six years before being released last August without charge. He now lives in Pakistan.
If successful, the case could formally link Britain to the illegal transfer of suspects across borders for the first time. Britain has admitted U.S. "rendition" flights passed through its territory but said it had been unaware of this at the time.

The case aims to make the British government come clean about how much it knew about rendition flights.

Diego Garcia, one of a collection of islands in the Chagos Archipelago, has been under British jurisdiction since the 1960s. The population was forcibly removed from the islands in the 1960s and 70s and an airbase built. Since then it has been leased to the United States for military use. The British government has always fought through the courts to keep access to Diego Garcia restricted, winning a legal fight last year to keep the descendants of forcibly removed Chagos Islanders from returning to resettle the island.

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