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Scottish Executive response on rendition

Response of the Scottish Executive to the letter from SACC dated 13 June 2007

Police and Community Safety Directorate Fire and Civil Contingencies Division
St Andrew's House Regent Road Edinburgh EH 1 3DG
3 July 2007

Thank you for your letter of 13 June 2007 to Kenny MacAskill, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, offering information on alleged rendition flights through Scotland. I have been asked to reply.

These allegations are very serious and Scottish Ministers understand the public's concern. Aviation and foreign affairs are both areas which are the reserved responsibility of the UK Government not the Executive, although we continue to liaise closely with the relevant UK Departments to maintain lines of communication and cooperation on this issue.

Where we have a clear locus however, is the determination of whether a crime or crimes have been committed on Scottish soil. A criminal investigation in Scotland requires evidence (admissible in a Scottish court) that a crime has been, is being or is to be committed within our jurisdiction by people who are present within our jurisdiction. If the police secure sufficient evidence for consideration of criminal proceedings as a result of an investigation, they will report the matter to the Procurator Fiscal. As such, an investigation contemplates as an end result a prosecution in Scotland against named and identified individuals in which they are brought before the court to answer specific charges. The matter is one for the police to assess as to whether they should, in the first instance, launch a criminal investigation.

The Lord Advocate is the only person who can direct the police in their investigations. Ministers do not have any such power. The Lord Advocate will only instruct the police to investigate if there is specific and credible information that a crime ha been committed. The decision on whether to investigate a particular allegation is otherwise an operational matter for the police and the police do not require an instruction from the Lord Advocate before they can commence an investigation. All information submitted to the police will be considered and action taken if there is specific information that justifies a criminal investigation.

Mr MacAskill recently announced that he proposes to meet with civil liberties and human rights groups and invite them to bring their evidence for evaluation and to discuss the way forward and your information will assist in this process.

I would like to reassure you that Scottish Ministers consider torture to be an abhorrent practice and we take our international obligations in relation to torture very seriously. The United Nations Convention Against Torture requires that States ensure that torture is a crime in their domestic law; that there are appropriate procedures for the investigation of crimes of torture; and that the punishments available to courts reflect the grave nature of the offence. All these conditions are in place in Scotland.

Drew Peterkin