Rights Group Demand Nicola Sturgeon 'Push for Truth' on Use of Scottish Airports for Torture Flights

CC BY 2.0 / Justin Norman / The CIA’s “Torture Report” has received much heated criticism, both from human rights activists and from apologists more concerned with national security.
The CIA’s “Torture Report” has received much heated criticism, both from human rights activists and from apologists more concerned with national security. - Sputnik International
Whether Holyrood does apply pressure on their Washington counterparts or not, Scotland's role in the US' long-running torture program isn't a matter of debate.

Holyrood is being urged to take a proactive lead in efforts to uncover the full extent of the US Central Intelligence Agency’s use of Scotland’s airports during the War on Terror.

Over 1,100 have signed a petition launched by human rights campaign group Reprieve, calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “push for the truth” about the use of Aberdeen, Inverness, Wick airports, and potentially others, for the “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects. Under its auspices, an untold number of people were illegally transferred overseas, for ‘enhanced interrogation’ - an Orwellian euphemism for questioning under torture.

In particular, the ruling SNP have been urged to pressure on Westminster for an unexpurgated copy of the US Senate Intelligence Committee's December 2014 report on the CIA's ‘Detention and Interrogation Program'.

Police Scotland's Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit launched a probe into use of Scottish airports in "torture flights" in June 2013 - when they requested the complete report, which runs to over 6,000 pages, they were instead provided with the executive summary, a mere 525 pages in length, with much content omitted and indeed redacted. Investigators were thus compelled to file their findings to the Crown Office in April based purely on an assessment of “information made available to them”.

​Such obfuscation was perhaps predictable given testimony provided by Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone to parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in January 2017 reveals on at least one occasion authorities were actively prevented from inspecting a CIA plane to determine whether it illegally held detainees.

Livingstone recalled that at an unspecified time, he received a call from a colleague, informing him Scottish Border Force officials were aware a US aircraft had arrived at Prestwick airport, having departed a country in North Africa.

"Border Force…wished to meet that aircraft and board the plane. The chief immigration officer was seeking some guidance in terms of what can we or can we not do…That guidance was we can have individuals on the aircraft come off and meet you on the tarmac, however you cannot come on board. So we were then presented with Bob in the distance watching Border Force engaging with the Americans on the tarmac, taking them on their word that there was no one left on board their aircraft," he said.

Nowhere to Hide

The Rendition Project, an ongoing initiative run by British academics Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael analysing illegal detention, transfer and torture of terror suspects, has identified "conclusive" proof at least five CIA planes linked to rendition flights landed at both Inverness and Wick, with a further three at Aberdeen International Airport. The pair also identified "suspicious flights" linked to other Scottish airports — in all 13 planes linked to the CIA operation had touched down in Scotland in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

​Moreover, a report on Scottish involvement in 'extraordinary rendition' published by Reprieve in 2009 revealed CIA planes made stopovers in Jordan and Egypt at least 64 times having refuelled at Scottish airports, with flights regularly criss-crossing between Prestwick and the Jordanian destinations of Aqaba and Amman, the location of Jordan's General Intelligence Department's detention compound, "widely acknowledged to be a torture centre". CIA planes were also found to have flown regularly between Scottish airports and the Egyptian rendition destinations of Cairo and Sharm el Sheikh.

The report further presented clear evidence of "systematic deception and cover-up", including the filing of false flight plans by private companies in league with the CIA and national aviation authorities host states. In the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — dubbed "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks" by the controversial 9/11 Commission Report — Scottish aviation personnel were seemingly deliberately misled by Polish aviation authorities and a company employed by the CIA with an office in Crawley, England. False flight plans indicated the plane flew to Glasgow from Prague, when in fact it had just dropped off Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at an airport servicing a secret prison in Poland.

"These rendition missions simply could not have taken place had these planes not been granted refuelling rights in cooperating territories such as Scotland. This raises serious issues of criminal complicity in these acts by those who knew, or should have known, the significance of these notorious jets refuelling on Scottish soil. Transfers to torture deprive the individual of their most basic human rights and subject them to the cruellest abuse. Many victims of rendition have simply disappeared…Scotland's role in the global renditions network amounts to collusion in forcible transfer to torture. Serious questions must be asked as to how this was allowed to happen in Scotland's name, and steps taken to ensure that it never happens again," Reprieve concluded.


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