UK records undermine Government’s claims over damaged CIA rendition documents

September 4, 2014

Claims by ministers that documents relating to the UK role in CIA ‘rendition’ flights were accidentally damaged have been cast into doubt by new Foreign Office (FCO) records obtained by legal charity Reprieve.

Last month, FCO Minister Mark Simmonds told MPs that records of flights passing through Diego Garcia had suffered “water damage” as a result of “extremely heavy weather in June 2014.”

However, weather records for Diego Garcia obtained from the FCO under Freedom of Information have cast doubt on this explanation: official logs for the island show that the total rainfall for June 2014 was just 3.25 inches (83mm).  This is a low figure, considering the average annual rainfall is 102 inches (2591mm) – or 8.5 inches (216mm) per month.

Ministers have previously admitted that Diego Garcia, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), was used by CIA planes carrying detainees as part of the ‘extraordinary rendition’ programme, which saw prisoners flown to countries where they could be subjected to torture. However, the UK Government has so far refused to make documents relating to such flights public.

Recent reports have suggested that the forthcoming US Senate report on CIA torture may contain further revelations concerning Diego Garcia. The UK Government has admitted that it has made “representations” to the Senate Committee concerning the report’s contents.

Commenting, Donald Campbell from Reprieve said: “These records suggest the Government has not been entirely open with the public over evidence of Diego Garcia’s role in the CIA’s torture programme.  Ministers must stop stalling and make public all flight and immigration records from the island from 2001 onwards – before any more of them suffer mysterious ‘water damage.’”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information and copies of the weather records obtained from the FCO, please contact Donald Campbell: +44 (0) 207 553 8140 / donald[DOT]campbell[AT]reprieve[DOT]org[DOT]uk

2. Mark Simmonds’ statement to Parliament regarding the damage to Diego Garcia’s flight records can be found in Hansard.

3. According to the US Navy, average yearly precipitation on Diego Garcia is 102 inches: http://www.public.navy.mil/fcc-c10f/nctsfedetdg/Pages/History.aspx

4. Further details on UK contact with the Senate Committee over the CIA torture report can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/press/2014_08_17_Senate_torture_report_UK_lobbying/