The British government’s Foreign Affairs Committee will look into charges by a number of sources, including human rights groups and a retired U.S. general, that sovereign British territory has been used as a CIA “black site” prison. The island of Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, has been leased to the United States and is the site of an American military base but remains British territory.
It wouldn’t be the first time Diego Garcia has witnessed the abuse of human dignity at the hands of an imperial power. The island was uninhabited until the French took slaves there. Centuries later, thousands of the island’s residents were forcibly removed to make way for an American military base.
In addition to being accused of detaining prisoners on the island, which is known to have a prison facility, the United States is also said to have secretly held prisoners on ships in the Indian Ocean, an idea remarkably similar to a recent plot element of the popular and semi-conservative TV show “The Unit.”
Allegations that the CIA held al-Qaida suspects for interrogation at a secret prison on sovereign British territory are to be investigated by MPs, the Guardian has learned. The all-party foreign affairs committee is to examine long-standing suspicions that the agency has operated one of its so-called “black site” prisons on Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean that is home to a large US military base.
Lawyers from Reprieve, a legal charity that represents a number of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, including several former British residents, are calling on the committee to question US and British officials about the allegations. According to the organisation’s submission to the committee, the UK government is “potentially systematically complicit in the most serious crimes against humanity of disappearance, torture and prolonged incommunicado detention”.
Clive Stafford Smith, the charity’s legal director, said he was “absolutely and categorically certain” that prisoners have been held on the island. “If the foreign affairs committee approaches this thoroughly, they will get to the bottom of it,” he said.