Nothing here that you couldn’t better read elsewhere; summary for my own amusement under the cut
A few days ago, [just about](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/08/wcia108.xml) [every newspaper](http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/08/wcia108.xml) covered a [report](http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?Link=/CommitteeDocs/2006/20060606_Ejdoc162006PartII-FINAL.htm) on extraordinary rendition from the Council of Europe. This is one of those odd institutions I’ve never properly understood, but if it’s left to them to keep an eye out for human rights abuses then so be it.
In November 2005, Human Rights Watch and [Dana Priest of the Washington Post](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/01/AR2005110101644_pf.html) claimed that the CIA was using secret detention centres in Poland and Romania. Putting prisoners outside standard judicial processes means abandoning most of the checks which could correct mistakes. The jargon term “[erroneous renditions](http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10618427/) is now being used to cover these cock-ups where the CIA seizes, transports and imprisons an innocent person.
#The British angle
As far as I can see, the report hardly turns up any evidence of naughtiness by the British government.
In their [submission](http://assembly.coe.int//Main.asp?link=http://www.coe.int/T/E/Com/Files/Events/2006-cia/United-Kingdom.pdf) about rendition to the Council of Europe the British government wash their hands of involvement in rendition, but do so in a way that leaves them plenty of wiggle-room. This says that since 1998 the US had four times requested permission to ‘render a detainee through UK territory or airspace’, and had twice been allowed. It says that the UK ‘expects’ the US to request permission for rendition – but makes no claim to be monitoring this. As Amnesty [argues](http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur010082006), “governments should have systems in place to ensure that planes passing through their territory are not being used for criminal purposes”,
Amnesty goes much further than Marty in identifying British involvement. In a new [report](http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engeur010082006) they accuse Britain of being a “partner in crime” – in particular, of being complicit in the rendition of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, two Iraqis resident in the UK. According to Amnesty, the British government passed the travel plans of these men to the American government, allowing them to be seized in Gambia.
#The legal situation
The legal elements of extraordinary rendition don’t bother me so much. Even if Britain didn’t have any legal obligation to prevent the USA using British airspace for rendition, they would certainly have a moral obligation. You can rely on Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the rest to dig out the legal requirements, and handle the to-and-fro on whether the ‘[Chicago Convention(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_convention)’ gives non-commercial aircraft the right to avoid the law.
So I’ll sidestep the whole legal issue with one line from the Council of Europe report: “Hardly any country in Europe has any legal provisions to ensure an effective oversight over the activities of foreign agencies on their territory”
The other British argument is that “this has always happened”. The argument only works because it disarms a certain clique of left-wing cynics, who believe (not always incorrectly) that the CIA has been involved in every case of international torture since the dawn of time. [This analysis](http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?id=15193) goes a short way towards demolishing that idea.
…and again, I’ve bitten off far too big a topic to get the hang of in one post. I’ll leave it at this 500 words, and might or might not return to it one day.