Miliband admits British rendition cases

Two US planes each carrying a terror suspect for extraordinary rendition purposes refuelled on a UK territory in 2002, David Miliband has admitted to parliament.

The foreign secretary told the Commons he was “very sorry” to correct previous assurances that British territory had not been used for rendition flights.

The US aircraft, both carrying one detainee, landed on separate occasions in 2002 for refuelling on the British territory of Diego Garcia, off the coast of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, where the US maintain an airbase.

Mr Miliband said errors in earlier US records searches had led to the cases remaining secret. US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had told him authorities had rushed to inform the British once it came to light, he explained.

“Secretary Rice has underlined to me the firm US understanding that there will be no rendition through the UK, UK airspace or overseas territories without express British government permission,” the foreign secretary said.

“The house and the government will share deep disappointment at this news, and about its late emergence. That disappointment is shared by our US allies.”

Neither of the two detainees were British and they did not leave the plane while refuelling took place, the foreign secretary said.

He added: “The US government has assured us that no US detainees have ever been held on Diego Garcia.”

Today’s revelations follow concerted campaigns by organisations like Human Rights Watch protesting against extraordinary rendition. The process involves moving suspects around the globe, allegedly with the purpose of using more relaxed human rights laws to torture them.

Mr Miliband said the UK would only allow rendition if the practice is acceptable to UK law and British obligations under the UN’s torture conventions.

“My officials and their US counterparts continue to work through all the details and implications of this information,” the foreign secretary said.

The Liberal Democrats called for a full inquiry into the government’s “stunning admission”.

Foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “It appears that the British government has been left completely in the dark over controversial US activities on British territory.

“This case may just be the tip of the iceberg. There is no alternative now but for a full inquiry into UK involvement in rendition flights.”