Op-Ed: 54 countries complicit in US rendition programs

Posted Feb 5, 2013 by Ken Hanly
After the 9/11 attacks, the CIA ran an extraordinary rendition program that shipped terror suspects to different countries where they were interrogated and often tortured.
CIA Headquarters
CIA Headquarters
Photo courtesy a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
Various countries such as Egypt and Syria were known to be part of the extraordinary rendition program but it has never been known exactly how many countries were involved. The Open Society Foundation has now issued a report that gives details of the CIA program. The Foundation report found that 136 suspects had been through the process and 54 countries aided in some way.
Among the countries involved were two countries the US often criticized for human rights abuses, Syria under Assad, and Iran. Iran actually did not directly participate in the rendition program. However, in March of 2002, Iran transferred 15 of its own terror suspects into Afghan custody and six of them ended up in CIA secret prisons. Iran knew what would likely happen to the detainees. One of them ended up at Guantanamo Bay.
Iran's ally, Syria, was often used as a destination for rendition in spite of its dismal human rights record.. Among the most famous victims was Maher Arar, a Canadian. Arar was grabbed as he transferred planes on his way back to Canada. Based partly on unverified data provided by Canadian intelligence agencies, the US suspected Arar was an Al Qaeda operative. He was rendered to Syria, where he also held citizenship. He was tortured in Syria and kept for over ten months in a very small cell. An extensive inquiry found him innocent of any ties to terrorism and Canadian intelligence authorities broke their own rules in the transfer of raw intelligence data to the US authorities.
Arar was not alone, at least seven others were sent to Syria. A prison in Damascus, the Palestine Branch, had a special area with very small cells called the Grave.
Amrit Singh the chief investigator at the Foundation said: “By engaging in torture and other abuses associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, the U.S. government violated domestic and international law, thereby diminishing its moral standing and eroding support for its counterterrorism efforts worldwide as these abuses came to light.”
Many countries hosted CIA flights including Thailand, Belgium, and Sri Lanka. Libya was a destination for a number of renditions. Gadaffi brutally repressed Islamic militants. The full list of countries that participated in rendition in some way were: 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. . One can hardly accuse the US of acting without international support! Apparently Russia and China were not trustworthy.
Obama issued an order that supposedly ended the practice of the CIA having its own prisons, but the order “did not apply to facilities used for short term, transitory detention.” Recently Jeremy Scahill toured a prison in Somalia used by the CIA. Obama has not outlawed the practice of sending suspects to other countries but he claims that he will not do so without a pledge from the other country that the detainees would not be tortured. This policy is exactly what the Bush administration used. Such a pledge is simply a means by which the US can deny any responsibility for resulting torture. Assad promised not to torture those rendered to Syria.
The Foundation Report is filled with horror stories. A number of detainees were taken and rendered in error. Khaled El-Masri was a prime example: Khaled El-Masri was seized in Macedonia because he had been mistaken for an Al Qaeda suspect with a similar name. He was held incommunicado and abused in Macedonia and in secret CIA detention in Afghanistan. On December 13, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights held that Macedonia had violated El-Masri’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and found that his ill-treatment by the CIA at Skopje airport in Macedonia amounted to torture.
Another prisoner in Afghanistan froze to death: On November 20, 2002, Gul Rahman froze to death in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan called the “Salt Pit,” after a CIA case officer ordered guards to strip him naked, chain him to the concrete floor, and leave him there overnight without blankets.
There is a long list of the types of actions that could be used as part of authorized "enhanced interrogation" techniques. These included water-boarding. The US prosecuted Japanese interrogators for water-boarding US prisoners during World War II. Under the Bush administration it was regarded as lawful. No doubt the legality of water-boarding depends upon who is doing it. The CIA destroyed many video tapes that showed subjects undergoing these enhanced techniques. As the appended video shows, the practice of rendition appears to be continuing under the Obama administration.