The UK should signal more clearly to the US that it should not use Diego Garcia for rendition without prior permission, says the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a report published today, the Foreign Affairs Committee says that the text of the Agreement with the US permitting use of Diego Garcia for defence purposes should be revised. It should specify that any extraordinary use of the US base or facilities, such as combat operations or any other politically sensitive activity, requires prior approval from the UK Government, and it should state explicitly that the British Indian Ocean Territory should not be used for rendition unless authority has first been granted by the UK Government, on a case by case basis.
Public confidence in the UK’s ability to exercise control over its sovereign territory was dented in 2008 when it emerged that information supplied by the US on its rendition programme since 2001 had been inaccurate. The UK was not informed about two flights which had refuelled at Diego Garcia, carrying detainees. Existing arrangements for the US to seek permission for rendition or other politically sensitive activities appear to be “entirely informal”, and the Committee recommends that they should now be built into the text of the formal Agreement between the US and UK on the use of Diego Garcia, which is due to be extended in 2016.
Sir Richard Ottaway, Chairman of the Committee, said today:
"This is about building confidence. The Government relied on US assurances on its use of Diego Garcia, and in 2008 these proved to be inaccurate. That severely damaged credibility.
The British public is entitled to know that the UK is able to exercise control over its sovereign territory and what happens there. The Agreement between the UK and the US on use of Diego Garcia is coming up for renewal, and we think the Government should take the opportunity to formalise the existing informal arrangements by which the US seeks permission for rendition or other politically sensitive operations in Diego Garcia: it should build them into the text of the Agreement.
We believe that would concentrate minds and prevent a recurrence of the unhappy events of 2008."