Defence Secretary John Hutton admitted on Thursday that British forces in Iraq handed over two terror suspects to the US who were then rendered to Afghanistan for interrogation and possible torture.
The disclosures contradict government claims that Britain has never been complicit in extraordinary rendition, whereby detainees are transferred to states where torture is legal.
In a statement to MPs that will reignite the row over torture, shameless Mr Hutton made a feeble apology after revealing that officials knew about the incident in 2004.
The US has now told Britain that it is not ‘possible or desirable’ to move the two men, who are still in Afghanistan, either back to Iraq or their home countries.
The incident came to light after a lengthy review of detentions in Iraq and Afghanistan which has thrown up a series of other errors in details previously released to Parliament.
The allegations first surfaced in February 2008 when former SAS soldier Ben Griffin revealed that hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British forces in Iraq had been transferred to US detention facilities, tortured and unlawfully removed from Iraq.
Mr Griffin, who left the British army in 2005 in disgust at the ‘illegal’ tactics of occupation forces, said at the time: ‘I have no doubt in my mind that non-combatants I personally detained were handed over to the Americans and subsequently tortured.’
The government responded by obtaining a gagging order in the courts to prevent him from revealing any more.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted last year that two such flights landed on British territory in 2002 when US planes refuelled on the British dependent territory of Diego Garcia, but ministers have consistently denied any direct British involvement with the practice.
But the minister is still refusing to disclose documents which lawyers of Binyam Mohamed argue will prove that the former Guantanamo detainee, who was released and flown back to Britain on Monday, had been tortured with the full knowledge of MI5.
Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German wondered what other ‘war crimes’ the government will be forced to admit later after denying now.
She added: ‘On top of all of this, US President Barack Obama, while closing Guantanamo, is expanding the notorious Afghan prison Bagram.
‘The only way for Britain to extract itself from torture crimes is to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, stop treating Muslims as suspects who deserve to be tortured and change its warmongering foreign policy.’