Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Below the Radar: Secret Flights and American Renditions

In May 2005, three stunned and traumatized Yemeni men emerged from a covert network of US-run prisons scattered across continents. They had been transported from site to site on secret flights and detained since 2003 without any contact with the outside world. Amnesty International went to Yemen to interview them and the men's gruelling stories shed a glimmer of light on the murky system of captures, transfers and secret detention that has been developed by the USA in the "war on terror".

Muhammad Bashmilah and Salah 'Ali Qaru were arrested in Jordan and transferred to US custody in October 2003. Two months later Muhammad al-Assad was arrested in Tanzania and handed to US officials. As far as their families were concerned, the men then "disappeared".

In fact, they were held in at least four secret US-run facilities, probably in three different countries. From the information subsequently provided by the men, it is likely they were held in Djibouti, Afghanistan and somewhere in Eastern Europe.

This story comes from a new report by Amnesty International documenting a tangled history of renditions, CIA cover companies and secret detention sites, and an equal trail of lies, deceptions and human rights abuses.

Egypt is in the thick of it. The CIA, using planes leased by front companies as well as legitimate aviation firms, has secretly transferred terror suspects into the custody of Egypt and other states where torture is known to accompany interrogation.

The former director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre described what happened to one detainee who had been rendered to Egypt: "they promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things". In some cases, the conditions of detention, including prolonged isolation, have themselves amounted to cruel treatment. Yet no one can investigate these abuses, much less stop them, because the identity, condition and whereabouts of most rendition victims remain concealed.

Amnesty International is calling for an end to secret detentions, renditions, the use of transfers of individuals to places where they will be subjected to torture. Specifically for the American government, we call upon them to end secret detention sites, and to ensure anyone being held in U.S. custody around the world can get access to legal representation.

To read the full report, click here.

To read the Amnesty blog discussion on torture, click here.

To see an animated map of a CIA rendition flight path, click here.

Blog discussion of the report:

Craig Persal's Journal

Jurist Paper Chase

Associated Press story


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