US staff on British base given diplomatic immunity during war on terror

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - UK ministers argued the immunity provision be extended to about 200 civilian and technical personnel

Sep 2, 2020

September 2, 2020


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Some 200 American staff on a military communications base in the UK were given diplomatic immunity for their roles in the US war on terror and the Iraq War in a revelation that has raised questions over Britain’s role in rendition and torture during the past 20 years.

A heavily redacted set of documents submitted to the UK government in 2006 showed that British officials had argued for diplomatic immunity to be extended to around 200 US civilian and technical staff as part of the “increased demands brought on by the global war on terrorism and the war in Iraq”.

The Times newspaper, which first reported the news, said the immunity was believed to still exist.

Reprieve, an organisation focused on supporting the victims of human rights abuses, noted that during the war on terror the UK had played a central role in enabling the rendition of suspects.

This included the Libyan dissidents Sami Al Saadi and Abdulhakim Belhaj, who were detained with the help of British spies and sent to Libya where they were tortured by the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

The base in question, RAF Croughton, is of particular significance after the death of a local teenager last year. Harry Dunn, 19, was riding his motorbike when he was hit by a car driven by Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an official at the base, who fled the UK saying she had diplomatic immunity.

“What happened to Harry Dunn was devastating,” Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, said. “His family should never have had to go through this and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.

“The shock waves of the worst of the ‘war on terror’ have been felt for far too long. Only by fully investigating this dark part of British history can we hope not to make the same mistakes again.

“We need an independent, judge-led inquiry into the UK involvement in torture and rendition,” she said.

Updated: September 2, 2020 08:56 PM

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