“Rendition is a degrading and dehumanising practice; certainly for its victims, but also for those who perform the operations. This simple realisation has become clear to me and my team as we have met with various people whose lives have been indelibly changed by rendition.”
Dick Marty has released his report on Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states. Extracts are given below. The report is scheduled for debate during the plenary session of the 630-member PACE in Strasbourg on Tuesday 27 June 2006.
On the US response to terrorism:
“While the states of the Old World have dealt with these threats primarily by means of existing institutions and legal systems, the United States appears to have made a fundamentally different choice: considering that neither conventional judicial instruments nor those established under the framework of the laws of war could effectively counter the new forms of international terrorism, it decided to develop new legal concepts. The latter are based primarily on the Military Order on the Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War against Terrorism signed by President Bush on 13 November 20013. It is significant that, to date, only one person has been summoned before the courts to answer for the 11 September attacks: a person, moreover, who was already in prison on that day, and had been in the hands of the justice system for several months4. By contrast, hundreds of other people are still deprived of their liberty, under American authority but outside the national territory, within an unclear normative framework. Their detention is, in any event, altogether contrary to the principles enshrined in all the international legal instruments dealing with respect for fundamental rights, including the domestic law of the United States (which explains the existence of such detention centres outside the country). The following headline appears to be an accurate summary of the current administration’s approach: No Trials for Key Players: Government prefers to interrogate bigger fish in terrorism cases rather than charge them.
This legal approach is utterly alien to the European tradition and sensibility, and is clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
On Guantanamo Bay:
“At Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, several hundred people are being detained without enjoying any of the guarantees provided for in the criminal procedure of a state governed by the rule of law or in the Geneva Conventions on the law of war. These people have been arrested in unknown circumstances, handed over by foreign authorities without any extradition procedure being followed, or illegally abducted in various countries by United States special services. They are considered enemy combatants, according to a new definition introduced by the American administration.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has strongly criticised this state of affairs: on 26 April 2005, with no votes against and just five abstentions, it adopted a resolution (1433/2005) and recommendation (1699/2005) in which it urges the United States Government to put a stop to this situation and to ensure respect for the principles of the rule of law and human rights.”
On Secret CIA prisons in Europe:
“This was the news item circulated in early November 2005 by the American NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Washington Post and the ABC television channel. Whereas the Washington Post did not name specific countries hosting, or having allegedly hosted, such detention centres, simply referring generically to ‘eastern European democracies’, HRW reported that the countries in question are Poland and Romania. On 5 December 2005, ABC News in turn reported the existence of secret detention centres in Poland and Romania, which had apparently been closed following the Washington Post’s revelations. According to ABC, 11 suspects detained in these centres had been subjected to the harshest interrogation techniques (so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’) before being transferred to CIA facilities in North Africa.
It is interesting to recall that this ABC report, confirming the use of secret detention camps in Poland and Romania by the CIA, was available on the Internet for only a very short time before being withdrawn following the intervention of lawyers on behalf of the network’s owners. The Washington Post subsequently admitted that it had been in possession of the names of the countries, but had refrained from naming them further to an agreement entered into with the authorities. It is thus established that considerable pressure was brought to bear to ensure that these countries were not named. It is unclear what arguments prevailed on the media outlets in question to convince them to comply. What is certain is that these are troubling developments that throw into question the principles of freedom and independence of the press. In this light, it is worth noting that just before the publication of the original revelations by the reporter Dana Priest in early November 2005, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post was invited for an audience at the White House with President Bush.”
On the US rendition programme:
“Rendition operations have escalated in scale and changed in focus. The central effect of the post-9/11 rendition programme has been to place captured terrorist suspects outside the reach of any justice system and keep them there. The absence of human rights guarantees and the introduction of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ have led, in several cases examined, as we shall see, to detainees being subjected to torture.
The reasons behind the transformation in the character of rendition are both political and operational. First, it is clear that the United States Government has set out to combat terrorism in an aggressive and urgent fashion. The executive has applied massive political pressure on all its agencies, particularly the CIA, to step up the intensity of their counter-terrorist activities. According to Scheuer, ‘after 9/11, we had nothing ready to go ‘ the military had no plans, they had no response; so the Agency felt the brunt of the executive branch’s desire to show the American people victories’33.
Second, and more importantly, the key operational change has been the mandate given to the CIA to administer its own detention facilities. When it takes terrorist suspects into its custody, the CIA no longer uses rendition to transport them into the custody of countries where they are wanted. Instead, for the high-level suspects at least, rendition now leads to secret detention at the CIA’s so-called ‘black sites’34 in unspecified locations around the world. Rather than face any form of justice, suspects become entrapped in the spider’s web.
In compiling this report, members of my team and I have met directly with several victims of renditions and secret detentions, or with their families. In addition, we have obtained access to further first-hand accounts from victims who remain detained, in the form of their letters or diaries, unclassified notes from their discussions with lawyers, and official accounts of visits from Embassy officials.
Personal accounts of this type of human rights abuse speak of utter demoralisation. Of course, the despair is greatest in cases where the abuse persists ‘ where a person remains in secret detention, without knowing the basis on which he is being held, and where nobody apart from his captors knows about his exact whereabouts or wellbeing. The uncertainty that defines rendition and secret detention is torturous, both for those detained and those for whom they are ‘disappeared’.
…it must be stated that to date, the following member States could be held responsible, at varying degrees, which are not always settled definitively, for violations of the rights of specific persons identified below (respecting the chronological order as far as possible):
– Sweden, in the cases of Ahmed Agiza and Mohamed Alzery ;
– Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the cases of Lakhdar Boumediene, Mohamed Nechle, Hadj Boudella, Belkacem Bensayah, Mustafa Ait Idir and Saber Lahmar ( the ‘Algerian six’) ;
– The United Kingdom in the cases of Bisher Al-Rawi, Jamil El-Banna and Binyam Mohamed ;
– Italy, in the cases of Abu Omar and Maher Arar ;
– ‘The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’, in the case of Khaled El-Masri ;
– Germany, in the cases of Abu Omar, of the ‘Algerian six’, and Khaled El-Masri ;
– Turkey, in the case of the ‘Algerian six’.”