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Encyclopedia > Torture by proxy

Extraordinary rendition or torture by proxy is a procedure used by the government of the United States and other Western countries whereby foreign suspects are sent to another country for interrogation under less humane conditions. It is known that torture is likely to occur, but the intention is to avoid the dispatching country being seen to be in default of its humanitarian commitments. As described in various reports in the media, individuals to whom it is applied are arrested, blindfolded, shackled, and sedated, and transported by private jet or other means to the destination. The US agency involved may provide the relevant foreign intelligence service with a list of questions it wants answered. It is acknowledged and even expected that these suspects may be tortured despite official assurances to the contrary. Although Egypt has been the most common destination, suspected terrorists have been renditioned to other countries, such as Jordan and Syria. Interrogation is the professional police and military technique of interviewing people, often without their consent, in order to obtain information regarding crimes or military operations. ... Intelligence is the process and the result of gathering and analysing difficult to obtain or altogether secret information. ... The Iron Maiden of Nuremberg was a famous torture device Torture is the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain as an expression of cruelty, a means of intimidation, deterrent or punishment, or as a tool for the extraction of information or confessions. ...


Treaty obligations

The UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) Article 3 states: The United Nations Convention Against Torture is an international human rights instrument, organized by the United Nations and intended to prevent torture and other similar activities. ...

1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

Any state that is a signature of the UNCAT and passes an individual to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture would be in breach of their treaty obligations, which most Western governments would be reluctant to do.


The procedure was developed by Central Intelligence Agency officials in the mid-1990s who were trying to track down and dismantle militant Islamic organizations in the Middle East, particularly Al Qaeda. At the time, the Agency was reluctant to grant suspected terrorist due process under American law, as it could potentially jeopardize its intelligence sources and methods. The solution the agency came up with, with the approval of the Clinton administration, was to send suspects to Egypt, where they were turned over to the Egyptian mukhabarat, which has a reputation for brutality. This arrangement appealed to the Egyptians, as they had been trying to crack down on Islamic extremists in that country and a number of the senior members of Al Qaeda were Egyptian. It was convenient for the US because torture is banned under both US and international law. The CIA Seal The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one of the American foreign intelligence agencies, responsible for obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and reporting such information to the various branches of the U.S. Government. ... Osama bin Laden Ayman al-Zawahiri Al-Qaeda (Arabic: القاعدة, the foundation or the base) is the name given to a worldwide network of allied militant Islamist organizations. ... Due process of law is a legal concept that ensures the government will respect all of a persons legal rights instead of just some or most of those legal rights, when the government deprives a person of life, liberty, or property. ... Order: 42nd President Vice President: Al Gore Term of office: January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001 Preceded by: George H. W. Bush Succeeded by: George W. Bush Date of birth: August 19, 1946 Place of birth: Hope, Arkansas First Lady: Hillary Rodham Clinton Political party: Democratic William Jefferson Clinton (born... Mukhabarat is the Arabic term for intelligence, as in intelligence agency. ...

The first individual to be subjected to rendition was Talaat Fouad Qassem, one of Egypt's most wanted terrorists, who was arrested with the help of US intelligence by Croatian police in Zagreb in September 1995. He was interrogated by US agents on a ship in the Adriatic sea and was then sent back to Egypt. He disappeared while in custody, and is suspected by human rights activists of having been executed without a trial. Zagreb (pronounced ZAH-greb) is the capital city of Croatia. ... The Adriatic Sea Source: NASA The Adriatic Sea is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea separating the Apennine peninsula (Italy) from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges. ...

In the summer of 1998, a similar operation was mounted in Tirana, Albania. Wiretaps showed that five Egyptians had been in contact with Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy. During the course of several months, Shawki Salama Attiya and four militants were captured by Albanian security forces collaborating with US agents. The men were flown to Cairo for interrogation. Attiya later alleged that he had electric shocks applied to his genitals, was hung from his limbs, and was kept in a cell with dirty water up to his knees. Shortly thereafter, a letter was published in a London Arab-language daily by a group calling itself International Islamic Front for Jihad, threatening to retaliate against the US for the operation. Two days later, the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up, killing two hundred and forty. Although the connection cannot be absolutely proven, circumstances suggest there was some relation between the two events. Tirana (Albanian: Tiranë or Tirana) is the capital and largest city of Albania. ... Osama bin Laden Usāmah bin Muhammad bin `Awad bin Lādin (born March 10, 1957 or July 30, 1957) (Arabic: أسامة بن محمد بن عود بن لادن), commonly known as Osama bin Laden (أسامة بن لادن), is the figurehead of al-Qaeda, an Islamist movement that has been involved in attacks...

Post 9/11

While extraordinary rendition was originally developed by the CIA, the Justice Department and the Defense Department now also do renditions. Initially, the procedure was applied primarily to individuals for whom there were outstanding arrest warrants. After the 9/11 attacks, however, the program was greatly expanded and came to encompass individuals for whom there were but vague suspicions. Critics charge that the program has "spun out of control", and used against large numbers of individuals, perhaps one hundred or more. In some cases, suspects to whom the procedure has been applied have later appeared to be innocent. [1] (http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/02/17/1530242) The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is a Cabinet department in the United States government designed to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. ... The United States Department of Defense, abbreviated DoD or DOD and sometimes called the Defense Department, is a civilian Cabinet organization of the United States government. ... The World Trade Center on fire The September 11, 2001 attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. ...

In the early hours of Oct. 23, 2001 a Yemeni citizen, Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a 27-year-old microbiology student at Karachi University, were spirited aboard a private plane at Karachi's airport by Pakistani security officers. a Pakistani newspaper reported.

In October 2001, Mamadouh Habib, an Egyptian-born citizen with Australian nationality, was detained in Pakistan, where he was interrogated for three weeks, and then flown to Egypt in a private plane. From Egypt, he was later flown to a US airbase in Afghanistan, and then on to Guantanamo Bay, from where he was finally released without charges in January 2005. Map of Cuba with location of Guantanamo Bay indicated. ...

In December of the same year, two Egyptians who had been seeking asylum in Sweden, Mohammad Al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, were arrested by Swedish police and brought to an airport. An executive jet with an American registration was waiting with a crew of masked men. Within hours, they were flown to Egypt, where they were imprisoned, beaten, and tortured. A Swedish diplomat visited them several weeks later. Agiza was charged with being an Islamic militant and he was sentenced to 25 years. Al-Zery wasn't charged, and after two years in jail he was sent to his village in Egypt. Ahmed Agiza One of two men, Ahmed Agiz and Muhammad Zery, that were secretly deported to Egypt from Sweden 18 Dec 2001 after a request from the United States in what is believed to be a CIA-led operation. ... The executive jet with the tail number N44982 (Formally N8068V, N379P and originally N581GA) is rumored to be a US Department of Defense prisoner transport, also known as Guantanámo Bay Express. The craft is rumored to be a transporter of suspected Islamic terrorists to undisclosed locations for Extraordinary rendition, i. ...

In 2003, Khaled el-Masri, a Kuwait-born citizen with German nationality, was kidnapped by US agents in Macedonia. While on vacation in Macedonia Macedonian police, apparently acting on a tip, took him off a bus, held him for three weeks, then took him to the Skopje airport where he was turned over to the CIA. El-Masri says he was injected with drugs, and after his flight, he woke up in an American-run prison in Afghanistan containing prisoners from Pakistan, Tanzania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. El-Masri claimed he was held five months and interrogated by Americans through an interpreter. He wasn't tortured but he was beaten and kept in solitary confinement. Then, after his five months of questioning, he was simply released. "They told me that they had confused names and that they had cleared it up, but I can't imagine that," El-Masri told ABC News. "You can clear up switching names in a few minutes." He was flown out of Afghanistan and dumped on a road in Albania, from where he made his way back home in Germany. Using a method called isotope analysis, scientists at the Bavarian archive for geology in Munich subsequently analyzed several strands of his hair and verified his story. During a visit to Washington, German Interior Minister Otto Schily was told that American agents admitted to kidnapping el-Masri, and indicated that the matter had somehow gotten out of hand. [2] (http://aol.countrywatch.com/aol_wire.asp?vCOUNTRY=25&UID=1374282) The ABC Circle logo, designed by Paul Rand in 1962. ... Munich: Frauenkirche and Town Hall steeple Munich (German: München pronunciation) is the state capital of the German Bundesland of Bavaria. ...

In yet another case which received large amounts of media coverage, a Syrian-born Canadian, Maher Arar, was detained at Kennedy International Airport on 26 September 2002, by US Immigration and Naturalization Service officials while changing planes after returning to Montreal from vacation with his family in Tunisia, where his wife was born. After being held without access to legal representation, he was taken to Syria, where he was interrogated and tortured by Syrian intelligence. Arar was eventually released a year later after it was determined he had no ties to terrorist groups. Maher Arar (born 1970) is a Canadian software engineer born in Syria. ... John F. Kennedy International Airport (IATA Airport Code: JFK, ICAO Airport Code: KJFK) is the main international airport in New York City, and is one of the largest airports in the world. ... September 26 is the 269th day of the year (270th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 96 days remaining. ... 2002 is a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was a part of the United States Department of Justice which used to handle legal and illegal immigration and naturalization; now known as INS (Legacy). ... {{Canadian City/Disable Field={{{Disable Motto Link}}}}} Motto: Concordia Salus (Salvation through harmony) Ville de Montréal, Québec, Canada Location. ...

Proponents of extraordinary rendition, and the similarly controversial concept of unlawful combatant, argue that torturing terror suspects, however distasteful, is necessary to help prevent further terrorist attacks, which may only be a matter of hours or days away. Critics argue, however, that such practices are unethical, unconstitutional, and skirt the Geneva Conventions. Even within the US government, opinions are divided; the State Department opposes ignoring the Geneva Conventions, and has warned the Bush administration that not only could US soldiers be denied protection of Conventions but that President Bush could also be prosecuted for war crimes. Unlawful combatant (also illegal combatant or unprivileged combatant) describes a person who engages in combat without meeting the requirements for a lawful combatant according to the laws of war as specified in the Third Geneva Convention. ... The Geneva Conventions consist of treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland that set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns. ... The United States Department of State, often referred to as the State Department, is the Cabinet-level foreign affairs agency of the United States government, equivalent to foreign ministries in other countries. ... Order: 43rd President Vice President: Dick Cheney Term of office: January 20, 2001 – present Preceded by: Bill Clinton Succeeded by: Incumbent Date of birth: July 6, 1946 Place of birth: New Haven, Connecticut First Lady: Laura Welch Bush Political party: Republican George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the... A war crime is a punishable offense, under international law, for violations of the law of war by any person or persons, military or civilian. ...

Aside from ethical issues, pragmatic reservations have also arisen about the practice. For one, it appears that while torturing a suspect frequently results in a confession, the confessions tend to be useless; a suspect will say nearly anything to end his or her suffering. Some investigators argue that better results are achieved by treating suspects with respect, allowing them due process, and arranging plea bargains with defense lawyers. A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case in which a prosecutor and a defendant arrange to settle the case against the defendant. ...

In addition, evidence obtained illegally or under duress is inadmissible in US courts, and this hampers court cases against suspected terrorists in the US. The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be indicted in the US in connection with the 9/11 attacks, has run aground because of Moussaoui's requests for access to confidential documents and the right to call al-Qaida members held in captivity in Guantánamo as witnesses, a demand rejected by government attorneys on the grounds that it would compromise confidential sources. Moussaoui mugshot Zacarias Moussaoui (born May 30, 1968), a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, is the only person to be indicted in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack. ...

Torture by proxy

In 2003, Britain's Ambassador for Uzbekistan, Craig Murray made accusations that information was being extracted under extreme torture from dissidents in that country, and that the information was subsequently being used by Britain and other western, democratic countries which disapproved of torture. Craig Murray (born 17 October 1958) was a British diplomat. ...

The accusations did not lead to any investigation by his employer, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and he resigned after disciplinary action was taken against him in 2004. No misconduct by him was proven. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office itself is being investigated by the National Audit Office because of accusations of victimisation,bullying and intimidating its own staff, as reported in the Sunday Times on 20 March 2005. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is the United Kingdom government department responsible for promoting the interests of the United Kingdom abroad. ... The Sunday Times is the name of several Sunday newspapers. ... March 20 is the 79th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (80th in Leap years). ...

Murray later stated that he felt that he had unwittingly stumbled upon what has been called "torture by proxy". He thought that Western countries moved people to regimes and nations where it was known that information would be extracted by torture, and made available to them. If it was true that a country was doing this and it had signed the UN Convention Against Torture then that country would be in breach of Article 3 of that convention. The United Nations Convention Against Torture is an international human rights instrument, organized by the United Nations and intended to prevent torture and other similar activities. ...


"Terror by Proxy", by Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, 14/21 February 2005 The New Yorkers first cover, which is reprinted each year on the magazines anniversary. ...

External links

  • "Torture by proxy - How immigration threw a traveler to the wolves" (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/01/04/INGPQ40MET1.DTL) (Sfgate.com)
  • "Markey pledges battle on rendition practice" (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/11/30/markey_pledges_battle_on_rendition_practice_requests_details_on_local_firms_role/) (Boston Globe, November 30, 2004)
  • "Torture by Proxy" (http://newyorker.com/online/content/?050214on_onlineonly01) (New Yorker, online edition)
  • "It's Called Torture" (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/28/opinion/28herbert.html?th) (Op-Ed by Bob Herbert, New York Times, February 28, 2005) alternative site (http://peaceandjustice.org/article.php?story=2005022809372038&mode=print0)
  • "CIA Flying Suspects To Torture?" (http://cbsnewyork.com/topstories/topstories_story_065094819.html) (CBS News, March 6, 2005)
  • "CIA given free hand for `rendition,' says official" (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2005/03/08/2003245336) (Tapei Times, Source: NY Times news service and AFP, Washington, 8 March 2005)
  • "Hair used to verify Afghan abduction claim" (http://paktribune.com/news/index.php?id=92772) (Paktribune.com, February 04, 2005)
  • "Torture by Proxy" (http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0311-32.htm), Editorial Los Angeles Times, 11 March, 2005
  • "The envoy silenced after telling undiplomatic truths" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/10/23/nenv23.xml&s), by Robin Gedye, The Daily Telegraph 23 October 2004
  • "Foreign Office faces probe into 'manipulation'" (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1533100,00.html) by Robert Winnett, The Sunday Times 20 March 2005
  • "Flight to torture: where abuse is contracted out" (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,11069-1542390,00.html) by Tim Reid, The Times, 26 March 2005

  Results from FactBites:
uses of torture in recent times: Information from Answers.com (5242 words)
Torture, the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain upon an individual to extract information, a confession or as a punishment, is prohibited by international law and illegal in most countries.
Torture was widely practiced in the Soviet Union prior to its transformation to a federation in the 1980s, to extract confessions from suspects, especially in case of alleged plots against the security of the state or alleged collaboration with "imperialist powers".
Forms of torture frequently cited include immersion in boiling water, exposure to extreme heat and cold, "the use of electric shock, temporary suffocation, hanging by the ankles or wrists, removal of fingernails, punctures with sharp objects, rape, the threat of rape, and the threat of murder of family members.
The Raw Story | Papers pick up UK torture memos as site goes dead (3516 words)
Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water.
On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.
Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.
  More results at FactBites »



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