by Chris Ames
In January 2006 the New Statesman published a leaked Foreign Office memo from the previous month that discussed what the UK government knew about rendition, extraordinary rendition and torture at US interrogation centres. Having established that the US was using its own definitions of torture to ignore international conventions, the memo asked:
“How do we know whether those our Armed Forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?”
The question is a very pertinent one and should be a very important question for the Iraq Inquiry. In 2008, former SAS trooper Ben Griffin revealed the answer:
“Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture, a former SAS soldier said yesterday. Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Telegraph:
“We would not transfer an individual to any country if we believed there was a risk of mistreatment.”
Unfortunately, this had long been contradicted by the leaked memo, whose answer to its “how do we know?” question was:
“Cabinet Office is researching this with MOD. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities.”
The memo was copied to Nigel Sheinwald and Margaret Aldred at the Cabinet, Office, presumably because it was their section, Defence and Overseas Secretariat that was doing the research.
We do not know what answer the Cabinet Office came up with. We do know that the MoD was so keen for the truth not to come out that it obtained an injunction to prevent Griffin repeating his claims.
We also know that the Iraq Inquiry, with Margaret Aldred as its secretary, has avoided the subject. The Inquiry has not published a single document from Aldred’s time dealing with Iraq policy at the Cabinet Office and has therefore not published the outcome of the Cabinet Office’s “research”. As Griffin told me:
“It looks as if the Inquiry has been steered away from this issue.”