New Danish ministers backtrack on rendition flight promises

Danish political parties, which called for an investigation into alleged double-dealing over CIA rendition flights in Denmark and Greenland when in opposition, have been criticised for backtracking now they are in power.

WikiLeaks cables released last year indicated that former foreign minister Per Stig Moller told parliament he would demand answers from the US while also asking Washington to stop avoiding questions on the alleged torture flights across the region. All political parties from Greenland, along with the Danish opposition at the time – the Social Liberals, the Socialist People’s Party and the Social Democrats – demanded answers.

“Given our current data, I suspect the Danish authorities have given the CIA permission to use Danish airspace,” Justus Hansen, the head of the Greenlandic parliament’s foreign policy and security committee, said at the time.

“We have summoned the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister because we want to shed every light on this embarrassing scandal,” Niels Helveg Petersen, a spokesman for the Social Liberals, told news agency AFP in January.

Now in power, the Danish parties have angered law makers by going back on their word and deciding that giving Greenland access to their information is “sufficient”, and that a probe is no longer needed.

“To avoid a backwards-looking and costly investigation, the government has decided that it would be sufficient to reinstate the offer to Greenland that they can have free and complete access to all relevant information if Greenland determines that to be necessary,” new foreign minister Villy Sovndal told Jyllands-Posten.

Tue Magnussen, of the United Nations Association of Denmark, slammed Sovndal for going back on his word. “Villy Sovndal says that all they will do is offer Greenland access to the information,” Magnussen told The Copenhagen Post. “On the one hand that is a good offer, but Greenland was only part of the problem. As a country that has been a forerunner in the fight against torture, Denmark has a special obligation to thoroughly investigate the way it may have been involved in the transport of detainees.”

“We are owed an explanation,” he continued. “Did the renditions also mean torture? The only way to stop such things is to do a thorough investigation and draw conclusions.”

Liberal Soren Pind, Denmark’s former immigration and development minister, however, commended the decision. “I take my hat off to Villy Sovndal,” he said. “It was a patriotic act.”