In intelligence circles, they are referred to as renditions, that is, the practice of handing a prisoner from one nations custody into that of another nation without due process of law. In the past three years, thousands of accused militants have been sent from Western countries to other nations where torture is almost routine in the jails.
Investigators, both journalists and others, have discovered the United States and its key allies are operating an invisible network of prisons and detention centers to facilitate this practice. Thousands of suspects have disappeared in them without a trace since 9/11.
Journalists say these transfers are carried out in secret by American, Arab and Far Eastern security services and often ignore extradition laws. The traffic has included British citizens as well as a few Americans. Whatever is learned is passed on to U.S. intelligence and, in some cases, to British intelligence as well.
Revelation of the secret system will put more pressure on the Bush administration for its cavalier approach to human rights and will cause embarrassment for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a close ally of Bush.
The practice of renditions has prompted intense anger. There have been at least 70 such transfers, according to CIA sources. A number of them have involved men who were freed by the courts and therefore are legally innocent. The transfer system often is employed when U.S. interrogators think rough treatmentwhich they cant do in this countrywould bring desired results.
Two recent incidents, described by The Observer, a British newspaper, illustrate what happens when this system operates. A British businessman, Wahab al-Rami, an Iraqi living in Britain, and a Palestinian seeking asylum were arrested by American and local police in Gambia as they stepped off a flight from London.
Their arrests followed a tip from British security services and came only days after they had been arrested by British police on suspicion of terrorism. Both men were freed by a British court.
The two men were taken from Gambia to Guantanamo Bay, where they are today. There was no legal process of any kind. In another incident, two Turks, a Saudi, a Kenyan and a Sudanese man were arrested in Malawi in June of last year. They were held on suspicion of financing terrorist networks. Local courts freed the men, but they were handed over to the CIA and detained for several months. Investigators say incidents like these are the tip of an iceberg.
The ghostly network of detention facilities snares many. These places range from massive prison camps like Guantanamo Bay to warships in the Indian Ocean. Not many accounts of life in this new gulag turn up. This network stretches around the globe. The largest U.S.-run jails are at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where about 400 men are held, and in Iraq, where many thousands of Iraqis are held. Dozens of Baath party officials are being detained in a prison at Baghdad Airport.
But these arent the only places used. In Morocco, scores of prisoners once held by American forces are thought to be detained at the al-Tamara interrogation center in a forest five miles outside the capital, Rabat. Many of these prisoners were originally captured by Pakistani authorities, who handed them over to the Americans.
One prisoner there is Abdallah Tabarak, who is allegedly Osama bin Ladens bodyguard. He was caught late in 2001. Tabarak was turned over to U.S. agents, then sent to Bagram and on to Guantanamo before being flown to Morocco. Amnesty International reported a sharp increase in torture in Moroccan prisons in 2003.
In Syria, prisoners sent by Washington are detained in the Palestine wing of the main intelligence headquarters and in a series of jails in Damascus and other cities. A steady flow of militants also has entered Egypt from American installations. Other prisoners have been sent to Egypt by other nations through transfers aided by the U.S., many times using aircraft run by the CIA.
Source: The Observer