Extraordinary Rendition: How the Lawmaker is the Lawbreaker

Graphic of Iraqi prisoner being torturedat Abu Ghraib Jail by American soldiersIn a recent appearance before the UN Committee Against Torture, senior US officials admitted they had made mistakes in the treatment of prisoners on the war on terror. The head of the U.S. delegation, John Bellinger, told the committee’s experts that all U.S. officials and government agencies are prohibited from engaging in torture at all times and in all places. Bellinger said the United States believes everyone is entitled to humane treatment. He said freedom from torture is an inalienable right.

However, serious doubts still remain about the way the US treats prisoners. In a specifically American extra-judicial procedure, for example, prisoners are taken to countries with laws justifying torture for imprisonment and interrogation. The procedure, extraordinary rendition, was developed by the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1990s in a bid to dismantle militant Islamic organizations in the Middle East. According to Swiss senator Dick Marty's January 2006 memorandum on "alleged detention in Council of Europe states", about a hundred persons had been kidnapped by the CIA on European territory and subsequently rendered to countries where they may have been tortured. However, the exact number of such abductions is unknown.

While extraordinary rendition is argued to be unlawful, unethical, unconstitutional and counter to the Geneva Convention, it still has its proponents. The US Attorney General, Alberta Gonzales, argues that “the U.N. Convention Against Torture’s ban on ‘cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment’ of terrorist suspects does not apply to American interrogations of foreigners overseas.”

However, if the US thinks that torture is illegal in any form; that keeping prisoners without any charge indefinitely is against the law and that restricting them access to legal advisors is illicit, then it ought to stop this infamous procedure. And as the most outspoken proponent of human rights and the most belligerent wager of the war on terror, the United States must stop using such tactics if it wants to legitimize its war on terror methods.

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