Thursday, January 19, 2006

More on the rendition memo

Surprise and fear...

The official word from the PMOS:
Put to him that if the UK was a member of the Council of Europe then any rendition taking place on its soil would be illegal, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that Jack Straw had dealt with the issue of rendition in his statement on the 12 December. It had been a comprehensive statement and the PMOS suggested that journalists read it carefully. Anything we did in relation to rendition was in compliance with our obligations under international law. As Jack Straw had said, we had had no requests for rendition since 9/11.
*Reads statement again*


*Looks up definition of disingenuous*


*Looks up definition of ambiguous*


*Looks up definition of git*

*Laughs at photo of Straw in dictionary*

More from the PMOS:
He said it was a classic case of people getting over-excited by a leaked memo rather than actually reading the content of it.
The leaked memo is available via the article in the New Statesman (previous experience shows that you only get one free access to this per day). I would also recomend reading it in full.

Here's one point of interest.
Is extraordinary rendition legal?
9 In the most common use of the term (ie involving real risk of torture), it could never be legal, because this is clearly prohibited under the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT). But the CAT prohibition on transfer applies to torture only, not to CID*. (This may explain the emphasis on torture in Rice's statement).
* [cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment]
Here we have an official confirming that they suspect the US administration might be moving people around in order to subject them to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. The official clearly outlines the way in which emphasis and careful phrasing might have been used by Rice to avoid denying that this occurs. The memo was written partly "with a view to PMQ's on 7 December" so I think it's reasonable to assume that Blair was aware of it's contents.

Strange then, that on 22nd December, he said:
[A]ll I know is that we should keep within the law at all times, and the notion that I, or the Americans, or anybody else approve or condone torture, or ill treatment, or degrading treatment, that is completely and totally out of order in any set of circumstances."
Aha. Gotcha.

Except that it's at times like this that you fully appreciate just how mendacious Blair's words are. We should keep within the law?

*Looks up definition of axiomatic*

Did he actually rule out the possibility that extraordinary renditions have led to ill or degrading treatment of detainees? He said that "the notion" that it has happened is "totally out of order". Well, yes, it is. Does that tell us anything about whether it has actually happened though?

So many questions. Having read the memo's advice on "handling" this, the government's statements can be very clearly seen to be deliberately misleading. As such, it seems that a fully independent investigation is absolutely essential.

Pressure is mounting.


Observations over at Obsolete and PDF link to the full memo.

Channel 4 News tonight reported that Jack Straw is going to make a written statement to the House of Commons tomorrow. A written statement? One that can be carefully scripted in order to "avoid getting drawn on detail"? So that no questions on those details can be directed at the Strawman? Good grief, I've woken up inside a Yes Minister halloween special.

Let me issue a written statement of my own:
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary of the United Kindom, is a devious, morally vacuous coward.
Unlike Straw, I am prepared to answer public questions on my written statement. Feel free.

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