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APNewsBreak: UK inquiry into torture of terrorism suspects to examine US rendition claims
LONDON (AP) ' A British inquiry will investigate CIA prisoner transfer practices as part of a probe into claims that terror suspects were tortured after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
The person, who demanded anonymity in order to discuss the details ahead of a public announcement, confirmed that a panel of three experts will examine whether Britain had a role in the alleged torture, mistreatment and rendition of detainees held overseas.
A second person with knowledge of the inquiry's scope also confirmed that the role of U.K. officials in facilitating the CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights would be scrutinized. They also demanded anonymity ahead of a formal statement from the inquiry panel to be released later Wednesday.
The U.S. extraordinary rendition program involved the beyond-the-law transfer of terror suspects from country to country by the CIA ' a policy that human rights advocates allege were the agency's way to outsource torture of detainees to countries where it is permitted practice.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered a retired judge to lead a 12-month investigation into Britain's conduct in the "war on terror," an inquiry that Foreign Secretary William Hague said was necessary to "clear the stain from our reputation as a country."
However, Cameron said the inquiry would not begin until a police investigation was completed into allegations that an intelligence officer with the country's MI6 spy agency was complicit in the mistreatment of detainees overseas.
In a 2007 probe conducted on behalf of the Council of Europe, Swiss politician Dick Marty accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centers or carry out rendition flights between 2002 and 2005.
Rights groups in Britain welcomed news that the U.K. panel ' headed by former appeals court judge Peter Gibson ' would study rendition, but feared his team won't have powers to demand evidence from the U.S. and other allies.
Conservative Party lawmaker Andrew Tyrie, who leads a Parliamentary group that has demanded scrutiny of rendition flights, said the panel may also exclude the role of Britain's military in the transfer of terrorism suspects, including to Afghanistan's Bagram air base.
"We know that U.K. forces have been involved in rendition. Two detainees captured by U.K. forces and subsequently handed over to the U.S. were rendered to Bagram in 2004," Tyrie said. "Other cases may have similarly slipped through the net. So to exclude detainee transfers from comprehensive examination seems unjustifiable."
Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee ' responsible for oversight of the U.K.'s spy agencies ' has previously criticized security officials for failing to press allies for assurances about the treatment of detainees. Eliza Manningham-Buller, a former head of domestic spy agency MI5 who retired in 2007, has said previously that she believes the U.S. deliberately misled its allies over its handling of detainees.
"Only by examining all allegations of U.K. involvement in rendition can the detainee inquiry get to the truth and restore public confidence. I have made this point repeatedly to the government and to the inquiry," Tyrie said.
Britain last year paid out settlements to a number of former Guantanamo Bay detainees who alleged U.K. complicity in their harsh treatment overseas, though the government did not admit any liability.
The government said it had agreed to the deal because it could not afford to have more than 100 intelligence officials tied up with a costly, lengthy series of lawsuits.
Britain's detainee inquiry: http://www.detaineeinquiry.org.uk/
David Stringer can be reached at http://bit.ly/b2tTK0