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Torture themes

Torture, abuse, rights' violations
Indications of Abuse
Prisoner deaths
High-level complicity
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Torture, rendition, and other abuses against captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere: Rendition of US captives to foreign countries


Project: Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

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       Selected foreign terrorism suspects in custody of the United States government who are unresponsive to interrogations are covertly “rendered” to foreign countries for further questioning. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Washington Post, 5/11/2004; The New York Times, 3/9/2003 Sources: Unnamed US officials] The countries receiving the rendered suspects are often known human rights violators like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, which have histories of using torture and other unlawful methods of interrogation. The rendition program often ignores local and international extradition laws. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002 Sources: Unnamed US officials] In fact, US officials have admitted that the justification for rendition is sometimes fabricated—the US requests that a suspect be rendered, and then the allied foreign government charges the person “with a crime of some sort.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/1/2003 Sources: Unnamed US officials] After a suspect is relocated to another country, US intelligence agents may “remain closely involved” in the interrogations, sometimes even “doing [them] together” with the foreign government's intelligence service. The frequency of renditions will increase dramatically after the September 11 attacks (see (September 11, 2001-2004)). [Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Washington Post, 5/11/2004; The New York Times, 3/9/2003 Sources: Unnamed US officials]
Countries involved in the practice of rendition -

Egypt - Amnesty International's 2003 annual report says that in Egypt, “Torture and ill-treatment of detainees continued to be systematic” during 2002. [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Amnesty International, 2003]

Jordan - The State Department's 2001 annual human rights report states, “The most frequently alleged methods of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions and extended solitary confinement.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Washington Post, 3/11/2002]

Morocco - Morocco “has a documented history of torture, as well as longstanding ties to the CIA.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Washington Post, 3/11/2002]

Syria - Amnesty International's 2003 annual report notes: “Hundreds of political prisoners remained in prolonged detention without trial or following sentences imposed after unfair trials. Some were ill but were still held in harsh conditions. Ten prisoners of conscience were sentenced to up to 10 years' imprisonment after unfair trials before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) or the Criminal Court. There were fewer reports of torture and ill-treatment, but cases from previous years were not investigated. At least two people died in custody.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Amnesty International, 2003]

 Additional Info 


       Talaat Fouad Qassem, 38, a known leader of the Islamic Group, an Egyptian extremist organization, is arrested and detained in Croatia as he travels from Bosnia to Denmark, where he has been granted political asylum. Qassem, allegedly an associate of Ayman Zawahiri, the “number-two man in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network,” is questioned aboard a US ship off the Croatian coast and then sent to Cairo, Egypt “where a military tribunal has already sentenced him to death in absentia.” [Washington Post, 3/11/2002 Sources: Unnamed Egyptian lawyers]
People and organizations involved: Ayman Zawahiri, Talaat Fouad Qassem


       CIA officers working with police in Albania arrest and detain five members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad who the CIA suspects are planning to bomb the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania's capital. After only three days of interrogation, the five men are “flown to Egypt aboard a plane that [is] chartered by the CIA” where two of them are subsequently put to death. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002]

(September 11, 2001-2004)

       After the September 11 attacks, the frequency of US-requested “renditions” (see 1993-2004) increases, and by the end of 2002, the number of terrorism suspects sent to foreign countries is in the thousands. Many of the renditions involve captives from the US operation in Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Washington Post, 5/11/2004; Los Angeles Times, 2/1/2003 Sources: Unnamed Western diplomats, intelligence sources, officials] “There was a debate after 9/11 about how to make people disappear,” a former intelligence official will tell the New York Times in May 2004. [New York Times, 5/13/2004 Sources: Unnamed former administration official]
 Additional Info 

(October 2001-2004)

       The United States government creates a multi-layered international system of detention centers and prison camps where suspected terrorists, enemy combatants, and prisoners of war are detained and interrogated. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] The Washington Post reports in May 2004: “The largely hidden array includes three systems that only rarely overlap: the Pentagon-run network of prisons, jails and holding facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere; small and secret CIA-run facilities where top al-Qaeda and other figures are kept; and interrogation rooms of foreign intelligence services—some with documented records of torture—to which the US government delivers or ‘renders’ mid- or low-level terrorism suspects for questioning.... The detainees have no conventional legal rights: no access to a lawyer; no chance for an impartial hearing; and ... no apparent guarantee of humane treatment accorded prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions or civilians in US jails.” [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] One administration official tells the New York Times that some high-level detainees may be held indefinitely. [New York Times, 5/13/2004 Sources: Unnamed administration official] Secrecy permeates the system. For example, renditions are done covertly and the locations of the secret CIA-run interrogation centers are considered “so sensitive that even the four leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, who are briefed on all covert operations, do not know them.” [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] In May 2004, it is estimated that there are 10,000 prisoners being held is US facilities around the world. They come from a number of countries including the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Yemen. [The New Zealand Herald, 5/13/2004]

October 25, 2001

       Masked agents of Pakistan's intelligence agency arrest Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni microbiology student, at the request of US authorities. Jamil, wanted for his suspected involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole, is then flown from Pakistan to Jordan on a US-registered Gulfstream jet. “The hand-over of the shackled and blindfolded student ... occurred in the middle of the night at a remote corner of the airport without extradition or deportation procedures,” The Washington Post will later report. [Associated Press, 10/28/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 10/28/2001; The Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Amnesty International, 6/20/2002] In September 2003, Amnesty International will report that US authorities have still provided no information about the Yemeni student. [Amnesty International, 8/19/03]
People and organizations involved: Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed  Additional Info 

November 2001

       Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German national, is arrested in Morocco and interrogated by Moroccan and US authorities. He is then secretly sent to Syria, where according to a former prisoner interviewed by The Washington Post, he is tortured in the Far'Falastin detention center in Damascus, “a facility run by military intelligence where many prisoners remain held incommunicado.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/03; Washington Post, 1/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed Haydar Zammar

November 5, 2001

       Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter writes: “We can't legalize physical torture; it's contrary to American values. But even as we continue to speak out against human-rights abuses around the world, we need to keep an open mind about certain measures to fight terrorism, like court-sanctioned psychological interrogation. And we'll have to think about transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies, even if that's hypocritical. Nobody said this was going to be pretty.” [Newsweek, 11/5/2001]
People and organizations involved: Jonathan Alter

Early January 2002

       The Central Intelligence Agency sends a request to Indonesia to arrest suspected 24-year-old al-Qaeda Operative Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni and extradite him to Egypt. The CIA had found his name in al-Qaeda documents obtained in Afghanistan. The agency believes that Iqbal, a Pakistani, has worked with Richard C. Reid, the Briton charged with attempting to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on December 22 with explosives in his shoes. [The Washington Post, 3/11/2002 Sources: Unnamed Indonesian officials and foreign diplomats]
People and organizations involved: Richard C. Reid, Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni

January 9, 2002

       Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see Early January 2002) is detained by Indonesian authorities at the request of the CIA. [The Washington Post, 3/11/2002]
People and organizations involved: Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni

January 11, 2002

       “[W]ithout a court hearing or a lawyer,” Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see January 9, 2002) is “hustled aboard an unmarked, US-registered Gulfstream V jet parked at a military airport in Jakarta and flown to Egypt.” Indonesian authorities tell the local media that he has been sent to Egypt because of visa violations. [The Washington Post, 3/11/2002; The Guardian, 3/12/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 7/26/2002 Sources: Unnamed Indonesian officials]
People and organizations involved: Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni

January 17, 2002

       Bosnian police turn five Algerians and a Yemeni over to US authorities, hours before they are to be released. The men were acquitted by Bosnia's Human Rights Chamber after the United States had refused to provide evidence in court that the men were tied to al-Qaeda. The US flies the suspects to Guantanamo. [Washington Post, 5/11/2004; CNN, 1/18/2004]

March 11, 2002

       The Washington Post reveals that US intelligence is sending suspected terrorists abroad for interrogation by foreign governments with poor human rights records. The program is known as “rendition” (see 1993-2004) (see (September 11, 2001-2004)). [Washington Post, 3/11/2002]

March 11, 2002

       Human Rights Watch writes to President Bush about allegations of renditions and torture reported in The Washington Post (see March 11, 2002), asking that the allegations be investigated immediately. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Human Rights Watch

September 26, 2002-October 6, 2003

       Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, is detained by US immigration officials when he makes a stopover at JFK International Airport in New York on his way back home to Canada. Chained and shackled, he is flown in a small private plane to Washington and then on to Jordan were he is interrogated and beaten. He is then transferred to Syria in late October where he is “beaten with sticks and cables on the soles of his feet, ... forced into a car tire for hours, ... subjected to electric shocks and sleep deprivation” and kept in a shallow grave. The US government fails “to provide information on his whereabouts and of the date and circumstances of his removal from the USA.” Nor do the Americans notify Canada of his deportation. After ten months, he returns to Canada after much pressure is exerted on the US by human rights organizations and the Canadian government. [Amnesty International, 8/19/03; Washington Post, 5/11/2004; CNN, 1/18/2004; CBC News, 3/10/2004; Counterpunch, 11/6/2003; CBS, 1/22/2004]
People and organizations involved: Maher Arar

December 26, 2002

       The Washington Post reports on the US intelligence program of rendition (see 1993-2004) and reveals that US agents are using “stress and duress” techniques to interrogate captives detained in Afghanistan. Persons being held in the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base who refuse to cooperate “are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours in black hoods or spray-painted goggles, .... held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights' subject to what are known as ‘stress and duress’ techniques,” the report says. [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] Each of the ten current national security officials who were interviewed for the article “defended the use of violence against captives as just and necessary.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] The report quotes one official who reasons, “If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job.... I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] Likewise, another official acknowledged that “our guys may kick them around a little bit in the adrenaline of the immediate aftermath.” A different source commented, with reference to the medical services provided for captives, that “pain control [in wounded patients] is a very subjective thing.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Finally, in a very explicit remark, one of the officials interviewed by the Post, who is described as being directly involved in the rendition of captives, explained the program's logic: “We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004] After the report is published, Maj. Stephen Clutter, the deputy spokesman at Bagram, denies the allegations, claiming that The Washington Post article was “false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram.” He says, “The accusation of inhumane treatment is something that I can clearly refute. The things that they talked about, the inhumane conditions ... are things that do not go on here.” [Agence France Presse, 12/29/2002] “There is a facility run by the US Army, however, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that persons under control of the US Army have been mistreated,” he explains. “A doctor examines them daily. They have access to medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have dental care. They sleep in a warm facility and have three meals a day that are prepared according to Islamic cultural and religious norms. When they arrive, they go through an interview process to determine whether they are enemy combatants or have information that can help us prevent terrorist attacks against Americans or attacks against US forces. During this interview process, they are treated as humanely as possible. We routinely allow visits, about once a week, from the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure their treatment is humane. If they are deemed to be enemy combatants or pose a danger, they become detainees. If they are not, they are ultimately released.” [Reuters, 12/28/2002]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Clutter

February 6, 2003

       Newsday reports that Vincent Cannistraro, a former intelligence official, told reporters, “Better intelligence has come from a senior al-Qaeda detainee who had been held in the US base at Guantanamo, Cuba, and was ‘rendered’ to Egypt after refusing to cooperate. ‘They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started to tell things.’ ” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Vince Cannistraro

March 9, 2003

       A New York Times article reports that the US government is rendering suspects abroad (see 1993-2004) and that “stress and duress” techniques are being used at the secret CIA interrogation center located in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (see (October 2001-2004)). “Intelligence officials ... acknowledged that some suspects had been turned over to security services in countries known to employ torture. There have been isolated, if persistent, reports of beatings in some American-operated centers,” the report explains. [The New York Times, 3/9/2003; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]

(April 2003)

       The Justice Department advises in a set of legal memorandums that if “government officials ... are contemplating procedures that may put them in violation of American statutes that prohibit torture, degrading treatment or the Geneva Conventions, they will not be responsible if it can be argued that the detainees are formally in the custody of another country.” That is because, according to one official, “It would be the responsibility of the other country.” The memos seem to suggest that top government officials may be concerned that they are in violation of international laws. One administration figure involved in discussions about the memos tells the New York Times in May 2004: “The criminal statutes only apply to American officials. The question is how involved are the American officials.” [New York Times, 5/13/2004]

June 24, 2003

       US government agents secretly render five men out of Malawi in complete violation of that country's laws. Amnesty International later reports that according to its sources, the arrests were carried out by Malawi's National Intelligence Bureau working together with the Central Intelligence Agency. [Amnesty International, 8/19/03]

June 26, 2003

       An official of the Malawian government writes to Amnesty International about the transfer of five men in US custody (see June 24, 2003), explaining: “From the time the arrests were made, the welfare of the detainees, their abode and itinerary for departure were no longer in the hands of the Malawian authorities. Thus as a country we did not have the means to stop or delay the operation. The issue of terrorism has regrettably spurred worldwide erosion of fundamental principles of human rights not only in the world but also in the USA itself.... Malawi has had to cooperate with the USA on this request as we are under obligations internationally to assist. In Malawi we do not know where these people are but they are in hands of the Americans who took them out of the country using a chartered aircraft. They should now be going through investigations at a location only known by the USA.” It is later learned that the five men were sent to Zimbabwe and then to Sudan, where they were finally released in late July 2003 after investigators could find no evidence linking the men to terrorism. [Amnesty International, 8/19/03]

July 13, 2003

       Al-Qaeda suspect Adil Al-Jazeeri is transferred over to US authorities from Pakistan after being subjected to “tough questioning” by Pakistani agents. The Americans then fly Al-Jazeeri “blindfolded and bound to an unknown location for interrogation in US custody.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/03; CBS, 7/14/2003]
People and organizations involved: Adil Al-Jazeeri

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