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Amnesty International is concerned by the practice of “extraordinary renditions” in which the United States is transferring individuals for interrogation to countries with a record of using torture. U.S. laws and international treaties prohibit the transfer of suspects to countries where they are likely to face torture. Nonetheless, the U.S. Government is reported to have sent or been complicit in sending individuals to countries such as Jordan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Syria, and Egypt – all countries the U.S. has criticized for practicing torture. The U.S. Government has not offered a public definition of “extraordinary renditions” nor has it provided public disclosure about this practice. The practice of “extraordinary renditions” is cloaked in secrecy, making it difficult to know how many individuals are affected. Detainees have been denied legal recourse to challenge their detention or prevent their transfer to a country where they may be tortured. There has been little accountability. Congress must act to ensure compliance with U.S. law and protection of basic human rights.
“Extraordinary renditions” contravene U.S. law and international treaties. The United States ratified the UN Convention Against Torture and adopted legislation to help implement the treaty obligations through the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (“FARRA”). The Torture Convention prohibits nations from deporting persons to a country where it is more likely than not that s/he will be tortured. FARRA states: “It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.”
Congressman Edward Markey (MA) has introduced the “Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act” (H.R. 952) and Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) has introduced the “Convention Against Torture Implementation Act” (S. 654) to prevent the transfer of a detainee to a country that has a history of practicing torture. It would require annual reporting of countries that engage in torture, and establish standards for assurances from such regimes for immigration removal and lawful extradition practices. This legislation is an important step in affirming U.S. commitments under both international agreements and domestic laws to prevent torture, and helps restore U.S. credibility.
The case of Mahar Arar brought public attention to “extraordinary renditions.” U.S. authorities detained Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent, at New York’s JFK airport where he was in transit to Canada. He was detained and interrogated in the United States for several days and denied access to counsel and family. He was flown against his will to Jordan where he reports being beaten during detention. Arar was then forcibly transferred to Syria where he was held for ten months and reportedly tortured. Canadian officials secured his release and he now resides with his family in Canada. The Arar case raises many questions about how the decision was made to deport him to Syria, even though he traveled on his Canadian passport and expressed fear of torture if returned to Syria.
Several other similar cases have since been reported. Swedish authorities are investigating the US capture and transfer of two men, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, to Egypt where were both were allegedly tortured with electric devices. Additionally, Germany and Italy are pursuing criminal investigations: German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, was taken from a bus in Macedonia and allegedly abducted by the CIA. German prosecutors say they have confirmed parts of el-Masri’s story that he was taken to an American prison in Afghanistan, deprived of water, and interrogated for five months before being told that there had been a case of mistaken identity and left in Albania. El-Masri has since filed a law suit against the United States. Italian prosecutors investigating the CIA’s involvement in the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr have indicted 22 CIA agents for kidnapping. Nasr was reportedly kidnapped in Milan, sprayed in the face, forced into a van and taken to Egypt.
Amnesty International USA’s Recommendations:
• Members of Congress should cosponsor and pass H.R. 952 and S. 654, which addresses concerns about “extraordinary renditions”
and prohibits the transfer of a detainee to a country that has a history of practicing torture.
• Congress and the Administration should recommit to uphold U.S. and international law against torture.
• The Administration should provide public information on “extraordinary renditions,” and ensure transparency and accountability relating to all individuals detained by the United States or transferred to countries with a record of torture.
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A staggering map of the 54 countries that reportedly participated in the CIA’s rendition program
Posted by Max Fisher on February 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm
Click to enlarge. (Max Fisher — The Washington Post)
After Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA launched a program of “extraordinary rendition” to handle terrorism suspects. The agency’s problem, as it saw it, was that it wanted to detain and interrogate foreign suspects without bringing them to the United States or charging them with any crimes. Their solution was to secretly move a suspect to another country. Sometimes that meant a secret CIA prison in places such as Thailand or Romania, where the CIA would interrogate him. Sometimes it meant handing him over to a sympathetic government, some of them quite nasty, to conduct its own “interrogation.”
The CIA’s extraordinary rendition program is over, but its scope is still shrouded in some mystery. A just-out report, released by the Open Society Foundation, sheds new light on its shocking scale. According to the report, 54 foreign governments somehow collaborated in the program. Some of those governments are brutal dictatorships, and a few are outright U.S. adversaries.
Their participation took several forms. Some, such as Poland and Lithuania, allowed the CIA to run secret prisons in their countries. Many Middle Eastern, Central Asian and European countries handed over detainees to the CIA, some of whom those countries captured on the agency’s behalf. Other states, particularly in the Middle East, interrogated detainees on the CIA’s behalf, such as Jordan, which accepted several Pakistanis. Several, such as Greece and Spain, allowed flights associated with the CIA program to use their airports.
Here’s what the Open Society report has to say about the staggeringly global participation in the CIA program, including a full list of the countries it names:
The report also shows that as many as 54 foreign governments reportedly participated in these operations in various ways, including by hosting CIA prisons on their territories; detaining, interrogating, torturing, and abusing individuals; assisting in the capture and transport of detainees; permitting the use of domestic airspace and airports for secret flights transporting detainees; providing intelligence leading to the secret detention and extraordinary rendition of individuals; and interrogating individuals who were secretly being held in the custody of other governments. Foreign governments also failed to protect detainees from secret detention and extraordinary rendition on their territories and to conduct effective investigations into agencies and officials who participated in these operations.
The 54 governments identified in this report span the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, and include: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
I was most curious about the involvement of two governments that are very much adversaries of the United States: those of Iran and Syria. It’s clear that, in both cases, it was an enemy-of-my-enemy calculus. Iran and Syria are both enemies of al-Qaeda and have struggled against Sunni Islamist extremism (Syria’s government is secular, Iran’s is Shia). Here’s the report’s section on Iran:
Iran was involved in the capture and transfer of individuals subjected to CIA secret detention. In March 2002, the Iranian government transferred fifteen individuals to the government of Afghanistan, which in turn transferred ten of these individuals to the U.S. government. At least six of those transferred to U.S. custody were held in secret CIA detention in Afghanistan. These six individuals included Hussein Almerfedi, Tawfik al-Bihani, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed al-Deemawi (Wassam al-Ourdoni), Rafiq al-Hami, Walid Shahir al-Qadasi, and Aminullah Baryalai Tukhi.
Iran’s transfer occurred as part of a detainee exchange. Because the hand-over happened soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities. Amin al-Yafia, another individual believed to have been captured in Iran, in 2002, may have been subsequently held in CIA custody. Yafia’s whereabouts are unknown. See the detainee list in Section IV.
There are no known judicial cases or investigations in Iran relating to its participation in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations.
The section on Syria is disturbing. That government’s record of horrific abuses has spilled out into the open since the uprising of 2011 became a civil war, with more Syrians subjected to – and speaking out about – a torture regime that sounds as if it were from another century. According to a 2005 article by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, quoted in the report, Syria was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects.” Government forces, according to the report, held some U.S.-provided detainees in a prison known as “The Grave” for its coffin-sized cells and subjected them to “torture involving a chair frame used to stretch the spine (the ‘German chair’) and beatings.”