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Report Says 54 Countries Offered Rendition Support

Among other things, a new report claims that several countries allowed planes carrying suspects detained by the CIA to overfly or transit their territory. (file photo)
An international human rights group says 54 foreign governments participated in the U.S. intelligence agency's secret detention and rendition operations following terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The new report, prepared by the New York-based Open Society, is the most extensive description yet prepared by a nongovernmental organization concerning a highly classified program run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The report details the fates of 136 known victims of the CIA's program to detain suspected terrorists and transfer them without legal process across national borders.

Many of the suspects were transferred to foreign governments that used torture or sent to clandestine sites operated by the U.S. intelligence agency itself.

The report, which comes more than 10 years after the 2001 attacks, says the CIA's goal was to place the detained suspects "beyond the reach of law" where they were subject to human rights abuses.

Amrit Singh, the author of the report, suggests the foreign governments' involvement in the secret program means they share responsibility along with the United States for its abuses.

"The report shows that 54 governments were complicit in various ways," she says, "including by hosting CIA secret prisons on their territory, by capturing detainees, by transferring them to different locations, by providing intelligence that led to their capture, and numerous other ways that basically made them complicit in a web of torture operations around the world."

Singh, speaking from New York, says she found evidence that 25 countries in Europe, 14 in Asia, and 13 in Africa lent some sort of assistance to the CIA in addition to Canada and Australia.

'Still No Redress'

According to the Open Society report, Afghanistan and Romania were among the countries where there were secret prisons run by the CIA.

The report says that Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Romania, and Uzbekistan were among the countries that allowed planes carrying suspects detained by the CIA to overfly or transit their territory.

It also claims that Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Macedonia were among the countries that themselves detained suspects and turned them over to the CIA.

Moreover, the report maintains that Iran was involved in the capture and indirect transfer of individuals to the CIA. It says that "in March 2002, the Iranian government transferred fifteen individuals to the government of Afghanistan, which in turn transferred 10 of these individuals to the U.S. government."

Syria, Egypt, and Jordan were the most common destinations for rendered suspects, according to the report. Pakistan "captured detained, interrogated, tortured, and abused individuals subjected to CIA secret detention," as did Afghanistan.

Singh says that the United States and most of its partner governments have yet to meaningfully acknowledge their role in perpetrating violations or to provide appropriate redress to the victims.

She calls it their moral obligation to do so.

"As a matter of law and as a moral obligation, it is incumbent on the United States and all of its partner governments to own up to the truth of what they did and to provide redress for the human rights violations that they committed," she says. "It is important not only as a matter of justice but also to ensure that this does not happen again."

Fierce Debate

The CIA's secret operations remain a subject of fierce debate in the United States, where members of the former administration of President George W. Bush say they helped to safeguard the United States against further terrorist attacks.

U.S. President Barack Obama banned the use of what the Bush administration termed "enhanced interrogation techniques." But Obama rejected calls for a national commission to investigate the practices when he took office in 2009, saying he wanted to look forward, not backward.
John Brennan, U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee as head of the CIA
John Brennan, U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee as head of the CIA

Human rights activists say he has revived the controversy by nominating John Brennan to be the new head of the CIA.

Brennan, whose Senate confirmation hearing is on February 7, was the director of the CIA’s National Security Counterterrorism Center under Bush. He defended rendition practices on the PBS “Newshour” program in 2005

“I think it’s an absolutely vital tool," he told the TV broadcaster. "I have been intimately familiar now over the past decade with the cases of rendition that the U.S. government has been involved in and I can say without a doubt that it has been very successful as far as producing intelligence that has saved lives.”

In a 2007 interview with CBS News, Brennan said enhanced interrogation tactics have produced “a lot of information...that the agency has in fact used against the real hard-core terrorists. It has saved lives."

He has since distanced himself from the Bush-era policies by saying he never supported the controversial practice of waterboarding to extract information from detainees.

According to Singh, the exact application of policies today is uncertain.

"There have been some reports that renditions into the United States for purposes of criminal prosecution are continuing," she says. "The precise details of those cases are not fully known, but that apparently is still ongoing. Whether or not the transfers [to foreign countries] are taking place for the purposes of detention and interrogation is unclear."

Convictions And Lawsuits

Congress launched its own investigations into the CIA's secret programs after the September 11 attacks but the results remain classified.

The new report is almost sure to add fuel to the debate in the United States as well as in some of the countries that participated in the program.

In recent years, several victims of the program have successfully filed lawsuits over their abduction or abuse.

On February 1, an appeals court in Milan reversed a lower court's acquittal of a former CIA station chief in Italy and two other Americans in the 2003 abduction of Egyptian cleric Osama Hassan Mustafa Nasr from a Milan street.

The decision means the three, who had previously been acquitted on the grounds of diplomatic immunity, now join 23 other Americans convicted for the abduction in absentia by Italy in 2009.

And in December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Macedonia violated the rights of German citizen Khaled el-Masri before he was forwarded to a secret CIA detention facility in Afghanistan.

The court ruled that his ill-treatment at the Skopje airport, where he was held incommunicado and abused, amounted to torture.