Extraordinary rendition describes the kidnapping and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another. The term has become prevalent in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the “war on terror.”
Amy Goodman reports one of the many examples of this practice with the story of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen:
The U.S. government also engages in “extraordinary rendition.” This Orwellian phrase describes how foreigners are grabbed off the street or from their home and secretly delivered to some other place, outside the U.S. (in Arar’s case, Syria), where illegal and brutal interrogations can take place beyond the reach of Congress and the courts.
Arar’s Kafaesque nightmare began Sept. 26, 2002. He was returning to Canada from a family vacation, with a plane change at New York’s JFK Airport. There he was pulled aside, searched, questioned and imprisoned. Two weeks later, U.S. authorities sent Arar to Syria.
Arar spent the next 10 months enduring brutal beatings and psychological torture, kept in a cell the size of a grave. Arar was accused of being connected to al-Qaeda, and of having been to a training camp in Afghanistan. Neither was true, but after weeks of beatings, he admitted to everything. Worse than the beatings, Arar said on “Democracy Now!,” was how he suffered while isolated in the dank, windowless cell:
“The psychological torture that I endured during this 10-month period in the underground cell is really beyond human imagination. I was ready to confess to anything. I would just write anything so that they could only take me from that place and put me in a place where it is fit for a human being.”
As inexplicably as Arar was kidnapped to Syria, he was released home to Canada, a broken man. Canada just finished a thorough inquiry that completely exonerated him and supported his request for financial damages. Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Bush ally, has asked Bush to “come clean” on the Arar case.
Leahy is demanding action: “The Bush administration has yet to renounce the practice of sending detainees to countries that torture prisoners, and it has yet to offer even the hint of an apology to Mr. Arar for what he endured with our government’s complicity.”
Leahy also pressed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on the issue back in January.
Maher Arar’s case is not an isolated incident. The procedure of extraordinary rendition, though not exclusive to the Bush administration, has become quite prevalent in the ‘war on terror’. Other cases include:
- Abu Omar: kidnapped in Italy in 2003, rendered to Egypt for interrogation, held for four years before being released
- Khaled Masri: detained in Macedonia in 2003, drugged and rendered to an American-run prison in Afghanistan for interrogation, held for five months, then released on a road in Albania, where he made his way home to Germany
- Mamdouh Habib: detained in Pakistan in 2001, transferred to Egypt, then Afghanistan, tortured, transferred to Guantanamo and released without charge 3.5 years later
- Muhammed al-Zery: arrested in Sweden in 2001, flown on American jet to Egypt, tortured and beaten, imprisoned for two years, then released without charge
In the case of Abu Omar, an Italian court has issued an arrest warrant for twenty-two CIA agents suspected of the kidnapping. Hopefully that will help to remind US authorities that these practices are in violation of international law.