'Torture flights through county' - claim

LEGAL action could be taken against Essex's new Chief Constable unless he investigates claims that the county was used as a stopping point for alleged “torture flights” run by the US.

LEGAL action could be taken against Essex's new Chief Constable unless he investigates claims that the county was used as a stopping point for alleged “torture flights” run by the US.

Human rights group Liberty has written to Roger Baker, the newly appointed Chief Constable of Essex Police, demanding he investigates allegations that CIA flights carrying detainees to secret jails to be tortured have landed in the county.

Chf Con Baker has been given 14 days to take action on the matter by the campaigners who have threatened to take him through the courts if he fails to take heed.

Essex Police yesterday confirmed it had received the letter from Liberty but declined to comment further than “we are considering its content”.


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Robert Chambers, chairman of Essex Police Authority, confirmed he had discussed the matter with senior officers and, because it was an operational matter, he declined to comment at the current stage.

Under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, torture is a criminal offence wherever it is committed.

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Stansted Airport is among a number of airbases and airports suspected of being a landing pad for the alleged “torture flights”.

A spokeswoman for Stansted yesterday declined to say whether an internal investigation as to the truth of the claims was being held.

She added: “Without specific details of flights it is difficult to know what purpose was declared to BAA airports for the flights identified by Liberty.

“Some may well have been declared as US government flights and some may even have been declared as Diplomatic. Under the Chicago Convention the airport operator is required to operate without prejudice and therefore, cannot deny access to its airport to specific flights without good reason.

“Therefore, the issues raised by Liberty and elsewhere are a matter for the Government and the statutory agencies.”

A spokeswoman for Liberty said: “The European Union and the United Nations and a group of MPs have expressed concerns that this is happening, based on flight records. What we are asking is for the chief constables to investigate these allegations because no one has done so.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “The UK is frantically seeking 'memoranda of understanding' with countries like Algeria, so that they may deport suspects who will be free of torture - why then are we dragging our feet in seeking assurances against torture from the Bush administration?”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said the Government was adopting a ``hear no evil, see no evil' approach to “rendition” flights.

He said: “I don't believe that that is adequate in the light of what we know. We know that extraordinary rendition is being practised, we know that a large number of CIA flights go through UK airports. In those circumstances, I think the obligation on our Government is much greater than they have so far

discharged. We need full disclosure by the Government.”

Liberty has also written to the top officers in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Kent, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence police, Sussex, Thames Valley and the West Midlands.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed the Government had also received a copy of the letter from Liberty but declined to comment further about the allegations at this stage.

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