To complement my recent article, “UN Human Rights Council Discusses Secret Detention Report,” in which I explained how, two weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Council had — after some delays — finally discussed the findings of the “Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Counter-Terrorism,” a detailed, 186-page report issued in February (PDF), I’m posting the section of the report that deals with US secret detention policies since the 9/11 attacks, in the hope that it might reach a new audience — and provide useful research opportunities — as an HTML document.
I do, however, urge everyone to read the whole report, because the introduction and conclusions are important, as are the sections establishing the legal approach to secret detention and its historical context, the section detailing current practices in 25 other countries worldwide, and the annexes, which contain government responses to a questionnaire about secret detention, and a number of case studies.
Given the length of this section of the report (pp. 43-89), I’m publishing it in three parts. The first, published here, provided an introduction, and dealt with “The ‘high-value detainee’ programme and CIA secret detention facilities,” the second looked at “CIA detention facilities or facilities operated jointly with United States military in battlefield zones,” and the third, published below, looks at “Proxy detention sites,” “Complicity in the practice of secret detention” and “Secret detention and the Obama administration.”
Please note that I have inserted hyperlinks where possible. However, the original report contains footnotes, and not all of these provide links to websites. In most cases, I have added the information contained in the footnotes in square brackets, but for full details, please see the original.
Excerpts from the UN “Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Counter-Terrorism,” February 2010
Prepared by Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Shaheen Ali, the vice-chair of the Working Group on arbitrary detention, and Jeremy Sarkin, the chair of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances.
C. Proxy detention sites
141. Since 2005, details have emerged of how the United States was not only secretly capturing, transferring and detaining people itself, but also transferring people to other States for the purpose of interrogation or detention without charge. The practice had apparently started almost simultaneously with the high-value detainee programme. The British Government transmitted to the experts a summary of conclusions and recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee report on rendition (2007), in which it was noted that “the Security Service and SIS were … slow to detect the emerging pattern of “renditions to detention” that occurred during 2002” [The summary was sent in response to a questionnaire on allegations of rendition and detention sent by the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, dated 8 July 2009]. The CIA appears to have been generally involved in the capture and transfer of prisoners, as well as in providing questions for those held in foreign prisons. Beyond that, a clear pattern is difficult to discern: some prisoners were subsequently returned to CIA custody (and were generally sent on to Guantanamo), while others were sent back to their home countries, or remained in the custody of the authorities in third countries.
142. The Government of the United States has acknowledged that “some enemy combatants have been transferred to their countries of nationality for continued detention” [E/CN.4/2004/3, para. 69]. In its report to the Committee against Torture on 13 January 2006, the Government attempted to deflect criticism of its policy of sending detainees to countries with poor human rights records, including those where they might face the risk of torture, declaring that “the United States does not transfer persons to countries where the United States believes it is ‘more likely than not’ that they will be tortured … The United States obtains assurances, as appropriate, from the foreign government to which a detainee is transferred that it will not torture the individual being transferred” [CAT/C/48/Add.3/Rev.1, para. 30. See also the reply of the Government to a general allegation regarding the its involvement in one case of extraordinary rendition transmitted by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, in which it affirmed that “the United States does not transport individuals from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. Furthermore, the United States has not transported individuals, and will not transport individuals to a country where the Government believes they will be tortured” (A/HRC/10/9, para. 425)]. Various United Nations bodies, including the experts and the Committee against Torture, have criticized heavily this policy of “extraordinary rendition” in a detailed way in the past, defining it as a clear violation of international law. They also expressed concern about the use of assurances [See A/HRC/6/17/Add.3, para. 36; A/HRC/4/40, paras. 43 and 50; E/CN.4/2004/3, para. 69; A/HRC/4/41, para. 458 and A/60/316, para. 45; CAT/C/USA/CO/2, paras. 20-21; and A/60/316, E/CN.4/2006/6 and A/HRC/4/40, paras. 52-56].
143. Given the prevailing secrecy regarding the CIA rendition programme, exact figures regarding the numbers of prisoners transferred to the custody of other Governments by the CIA without spending any time in CIA facilities are difficult to ascertain. Equally, little is known about the number of detainees who have been held at the request of other States, such as the United Kingdom and Canada. While several of these allegations cannot be backed up by other sources, the experts wish to underscore that the consistency of many of the detailed allegations provided separately by detainees adds weight to the inclusion of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Djibouti as proxy detention facilities where detainees have been held on behalf of the CIA. Serious concerns also exist about the role of Uzbekistan as a proxy detention site.
144. At least 15 prisoners, mostly seized in Karachi, Pakistan, or in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, claim to have been rendered by the CIA to the main headquarters of the General Intelligence Department of Jordan in Amman, between September 2001 and 2004. They include three men and one juvenile subsequently transferred to Guantanamo via Afghanistan:
- Jamal Mar’i, a Yemeni, and the first known victim of rendition in the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001. Seized from his house in Karachi, on 23 September 2001, he was held for four months in Jordan before being flown to Guantanamo, where he remains [PDF, pp. 130-44] [Postscript: he was freed in December 2009].
- Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian, was rendered to Jordan after handing himself to Mauritanian authorities on 28 November 2001. Mr. Slahi was held in Jordan for eight months, and described what happened to him as “beyond description”. He was then transferred to Afghanistan, where he spent two weeks, and arrived in Guantanamo, where he remains, on 4 August 2002 [PDF, pp. 28-38; PDF, pp. 184-218][Postscript: he won his habeas petition in March 2010].
- Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, a Yemeni, was rendered to Jordan after his capture in Karachi on 7 February 2002. Flown to Afghanistan on 8 January 2004, he was held there for eight months, then flown to Guantanamo on 20 September 2004. Still held at Guantanamo, he has stated that he was continuously tortured throughout his 23 months in Jordan. [Postscript: his torture was referred to by a US judge in this habeas petition].
- Hassan bin Attash, a Saudi-born Yemeni, was 17 years old when he was seized in Karachi on 11 September 2002 with Ramzi bin al-Shibh. He was held in Jordan until 8 January 2004, when he was flown to Afghanistan with Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi. He was then delivered to Guantanamo with al-Sharqawi on 20 September 2004. Still held at Guantanamo, he has stated that he was tortured throughout his time in Jordan.
145. Also held were Abu Hamza al-Tabuki, a Saudi seized by United States agents in Afghanistan in December 2001 and released in Saudi Arabia in late 2002 or early 2003, and Samer Helmi al-Barq, seized in Pakistan on 15 July 2003, who was kept for three months in a secret prison outside Pakistan, before being transferred to Jordan on 26 October 2003. He was released on bail in January 2008 [Others reportedly held in Jordan are Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni student rendered from Karachi on 23 October 2001, who has not been heard of since; Ibrahim al- Jeddawi, a Saudi seized in Yemen (or Kuwait) in the first half of 2002, who was reportedly transferred to Saudi custody; at least five other men (three Algerians, a Syrian and a Chechen), seized in Georgia in 2002; an Iraqi Kurd, possibly seized in Yemen; and a Tunisian, seized in Iraq. The current whereabouts of all these men is unknown. According to former prisoners interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, seized with Hassan bin Attash and one of 14 “high-value detainees” transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006, was also held in Jordan for an unspecified amount of time, as was Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, seized in Afghanistan in late 2001, who was subjected to multiple renditions. See also para. 146. For Samer Helmi al-Barq, see Amnesty International, submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, February 2009 (PDF)].
146. At least seven men were rendered to Egypt by the CIA between September 2001 and February 2003, and another was rendered to Egypt from the Syrian Arab Republic, where he had been seized at the request of the Canadian authorities:
- Abdel Hakim Khafargy, an Egyptian-born, Munich-based publisher, was allegedly seized in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 24 September 2001, and rendered to Egypt a few weeks later, after being held by United States forces at its base in Tuzla. He was returned to Germany two months later [PDF].
- Mamdouh Habib, an Australian seized in Pakistan in November 2001, was rendered to Egypt three weeks later and held for six months. Transferred to Guantanamo in June 2002, he was released in January 2005. He claims to have been tortured throughout his time in Egypt [For recent developments, see this article].
- Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, a Pakistani-Egyptian national, was seized by the Indonesian authorities in Jakarta on 9 January 2002, flown first to Egypt and then to Bagram, where he was held for 11 months. He arrived in Guantanamo on 23 March 2003 and was released in August 2008. Mr. Madni indicated that, during his detention in Cairo, he was subjected to ill-treatment, including electroshocks applied to his head and knees and, on several occasions, he was hung from metal hooks and beaten. Furthermore, he reported that was denied medical treatment for the blood in his urine [Interview with Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (annex II, case 15)].
- As confirmed by the Government of Sweden in its response to a letter sent by the experts, following a decision made by the Government to refuse asylum in Sweden to the Egyptian citizens Mohammed Alzery and Ahmed Agiza and to expel them, they were deported to Egypt by the Swedish Security Police with the assistance of the United States authorities (CIA). Both have said that they were tortured in Egyptian custody [Agiza v Sweden, communication 233/2003 (CAT/C/34/D/233/2003); and Alzery v Sweden, communication 1416/2006 (CCPR/C/88/D/1416/2005)]. Alzery was released on 12 October 2003 without charge or trial, but was placed under police surveillance. Ahmed Agiza had already been tried and sentenced in absentia by an Egyptian military court at the time of the decision by the Government of Sweden to deport him. In April 2004, the court’s decision was confirmed and Agiza was convicted on terrorism charges following a trial monitored by Human Rights Watch, which described it as “flagrantly unfair”.
- Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, a Libyan, an emir of the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, was seized by Pakistani officials in late 2001 while fleeing Afghanistan and was rendered to Egypt where, under torture, he claimed that there were links between Al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, which were used by the United States administration to justify the invasion of Iraq. Also held in secret CIA detention sites in Afghanistan, and possibly in other countries, he was returned to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in 2006, where he reportedly died by committing suicide in May 2009.
- Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (also known as Abu Omar), an Egyptian, was kidnapped in Milan on 17 February 2003, and rendered to Egypt, where he was held for four years (including 14 months in secret detention) before being released [For more details on this case, in particular with regard to the abduction of Abu Omar in Milan and the ensuing judicial proceedings in Italy, see the section on Italian complicity in the renditions programme below]. Allegations of ill-treatment in Egyptian detention include being hung upside down and having had electric shocks applied to his testicles [PDF, p, 4].
The eighth man, Ahmad Abou El-Maati, a Canadian-Egyptian national, was seized at Damascus airport on his arrival from Toronto on 11 November 2001. He was held in the Far Falestin prison in the Syrian Arab Republic until 25 January 2002, when he was transferred to Egyptian custody, where he remained in various detention sites (including in secret detention until August 2002) until his release on 7 March 2004. During the initial period of his detention in Egypt, he was subjected to heavy beatings and threats of rape against his sister. At a later stage during the secret detention phase, he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back practically continuously for 45 days in a solitary confinement cell, which he described as being very painful and which made it hard to use the toilet and wash. He was also subjected to sleep deprivation [Internal inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, pursuant to an Order in Council dated 11 December 2006. See also Commission of inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar, report of the fact finder of 14 October 2005].
3. Syrian Arab Republic
147. At least nine detainees were rendered by the CIA to the Syrian Arab Republic between December 2001 and October 2002, and held in Far Falestin, run by Syrian Military Intelligence. All those able to speak about their experiences explained that they were tortured. As in the case of Egypt (see para. 146 above), other men were seized at the request of the Canadian authorities:
- Muhammad Haydar Zammar, a German national, was seized in Morocco on 8 December 2001, and rendered by the CIA to Far Falestin on 22 December 2001. In October 2004, he was moved to an “unknown location”; in February 2007, he received a 12-year sentence from the Higher State Security Court. He was convicted of being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, a crime punishable by death in the Syrian Arab Republic [See A/HRC/7/4/Add.1., this Amnesty International appeal, and CAT/C/49/Add.4]. In its reply for the present study, the Government of Morocco indicated that the police had arrested Mr. Zammar following information that he had been implicated in the events of 11 September 2001. The Government also stated that Mr. Zammar had not been subjected to secret or arbitrary detention in Morocco, and that he had been transferred to the Syrian Arab Republic on 30 December 2001, in the presence of the Syrian Ambassador accredited to Morocco.
- Three detainees were rendered to the Syrian Arab Republic on 14 May 2002: Abdul Halim Dahak, a student seized in Pakistan in November 2001, Omar Ghramesh and an unnamed teenager, the latter being seized with Abu Zubaydah in Faisalabad, Pakistan, on 28 March 2002 [Stephen Grey, Ghost Plane: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Rendition Programme, Hurst & Co., 2006), pp. 4, 54 and 284]. All had been tortured. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
- Noor al-Deen, a Syrian teenager, was captured with Abu Zubaydah and rendered to Morocco, then to the Syrian Arab Republic. His current whereabouts are unknown.
- According to Abdullah Almalki (see para. 148 below), two other prisoners, Barah Abdul Latif and Bahaa Mustafa Jaghel, were also transferred from Pakistan to the Syrian Arab Republic, the first in February/March 2002, the second in May 2002. Both had been tortured. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
- Yasser Tinawi, a Syrian national seized in Somalia on 17 July 2002, was flown to Ethiopia by United States agents, who interrogated him for three months. On 26 October, he was flown to Egypt; on 29 October 2002, he arrived in the Syrian Arab Republic. In March 2003, he received a two-year sentence from a military court.
- Maher Arar, a Canadian-Syrian national, was seized at John F. Kennedy airport in New York on 26 September 2002, held for 11 days in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Manhattan, then rendered to the Syrian Arab Republic on 8 October, via Jordan [A/HRC/4/33/Add.3, paras. 33, 43-45, footnote 11], where he was held in secret detention at Far Falestin until later that month. Jordan alleged that Mr. Arar had arrived in Amman as an ordinary passenger, but was asked to leave the country because his name was on a list of wanted terrorists, and given a choice of destination. It also alleged that he had asked to be voluntarily taken by car to the Syrian Arab Republic. During his period at Far Falestin, he was severely beaten with a black cable and threatened with electric shocks: “The pattern was for Mr. Arar to receive three or four lashes with the cable then to be questioned, and then for the beating to begin again.” The torture allegations were found to be completely consistent with the results of the forensic examinations conducted in Canada. On 14 August 2003, Mr. Arar was moved to Sednaya prison and released on 29 September. The official inquiry in the Arar case also stressed the catastrophic impact of the described events in terms of his and his family’s economic situation and his family life in general.
148. When Ahmad Abou El-Maati (see para. 146) was held in Far Falestin in the Syrian Arab Republic, he was held in solitary confinement in poor conditions and subjected to ill-treatment, including blindfolding, forced to remove almost all his clothes, beaten with cables, forcible shaving and had ice-cold water poured on him. Abdullah Almalki, a Canadian-Syrian national, also spent time in secret detention in the Syrian Arab Jamahiriya, in Far Falestin, from 3 May to 7 July 2002, when he received a family visit. On 25 August 2003, he was sent to Sednaya prison. He was released on 10 March 2004. He returned to Canada on 25 July 2004 after being acquitted of all charges by the Syrian State Supreme Security court [Internal inquiry, paras. 10-38] .
149. Another Canadian, Muayyed Nureddin, an Iraqi-born geologist, was detained on the border of the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq on 11 December 2002, when he returned from a family visit in northern Iraq. He was secretly detained for a month in Far Falestin, then released on 13 January 2003 [Internal inquiry, paras. 10-38].
150. In its response to the questionnaire sent by the experts, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic stated that the country had no secret prisons or detention centres. There were no cases of secret detention, and no individuals had been arrested without the knowledge of the competent authorities. No authorization had been granted to the security service of any foreign State to establish secret detention facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. A number of foreign individuals had been arrested in the country at the request of other States, and had been informed of the legal basis for the arrests and their places of detention. The above-mentioned States were also informed of whether the individuals concerned had been brought before the Courts or transferred outside of the country. Individuals belonging to different terrorist groups had been prosecuted and detained in public prisons, in compliance with relevant international standards. They would be judged by the competent judicial authorities. Court proceedings would be public and be held in the presence of defence lawyers, families, human rights activists and foreign diplomats. Some would be publicized through the media. The Interpol branch within the Security Service of the Ministry of the Interior was cooperating with international Interpol branches with regard to suspected terrorist and other criminal activities.
151. At least three detainees were rendered to Morocco by the CIA between May and July 2002, and held in Temara prison, including the following:
- Abou Elkassim Britel, of Moroccan origin and an Italian citizen through marriage and naturalization, was seized in Lahore, Pakistan, on 10 March 2002. He stated that he was tortured in Pakistani custody. On 23 May 2002, he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was held in secret detention until February 2003, and where he alleged he was also tortured. He was released in February 2003, but in May 2003 was seized again, held for another four months in Temara, then sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was reduced to nine years on appeal [Interview with Khadija Anna L. Pighizzini, wife of Abou Elkassim Britel (annex II, case 7)]. In its submission for the present study, the Government of Morocco stated that Mr. Britel had not been subjected to “arbitrary detention or torture” between May 2002 and February 2003, or between May and September 2003.
- Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and British resident, was seized in Karachi, Pakistan, on 10 April 2002. He was held for approximately three months, during which time he was subjected to torture. On 21 July 2002, he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, where he was held for 18 months in three different unknown facilities. During that period, he was allegedly threatened, subjected to particularly severe torture and other forms of ill-treatment; deprived from sleep for up to 48 hours at a time; and his prayers were interrupted by turning up the volume of pornographic movies. In January 2004, he was flown to the CIA “dark prison” in Kabul, and in May he was moved to Bagram. He was flown to Guantanamo on 20 September 2004, and was released in February 2009 [Interview with Binyam Mohamed (annex II, case 18); see also the finding of two British High Court judges that the treatment to which he had been subjected presented an “arguable case of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” (PDF)] [The third prisoner is Noor al-Deen (see para. 147), who was moved to the Syrian Arab Republic in 2003].
152. From December 2001 until the summer of 2002, when the majority of the detainees who ended up in Guantanamo were seized, detention facilities in Pakistan, where several hundred detainees were held before being transferred to Kandahar or Bagram, were a crucial component of what was then, exclusively, a secret detention programme. Many of these men, seized near the Pakistani border, or while crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan, were held in prisons in Kohat and Peshawar, but others were held in what appear to be impromptu facilities, which were established across the country in numerous locations. The then President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, stated that:
Since shortly after 9/11, when many Al-Qaida members fled Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan, we have played multiple games of cat and mouse with them. The biggest of them all, Osama bin Laden, is still at large at the time of this writing, but we have caught many, many others. Some are known to the world, some are not. We have captured 672 and handed over 369 to the United States. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars [Pervez Musharraf, In The Line Of Fire: A Memoir, Free Press, 2006].
153. Two former prisoners, Moazzam Begg and Omar Deghayes, described their experiences of secret detention in Pakistan to the experts:
Omar Deghayes, a Libyan national and British resident, was arrested in April 2002 at his home in Lahore after a hundred people in black tracksuits surrounded the house. In the presence of an American officer, he was then taken, handcuffed and hooded, to a police station and, shortly afterwards, to an old fortress outside Lahore, where he was held with other men from Palestine, Tunisia, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Egypt, and beaten and kicked, and heard electroshocks and people screaming. According to his account, “the place was run by Pakistanis and appeared to be a maximum security prison for extremist opponents that were traded with different States such as Libya and the United States.” He also stated that he was tortured for a month without any contact with the external world, and that the ill-treatment included punching, beating, kicking, stripping, being hit in the back with wooden sticks, and stress positions for up to three days and three nights. In mid-May, two Americans in plain clothes visited, took photographs and asked questions. He was then moved to a place in Islamabad, which looked like a barracks, where he was held incommunicado for one month without access to a lawyer or ICRC, and was interrogated in a nearby house by American officers, who identified themselves as CIA, and, on one occasion, by a British agent from MI6. He said that torture took place in the barracks but not during the interrogations, and that he was subjected to drowning and stress positions, and recalled a room full of caged snakes that guards threatened to open if he did not speak about what he had done in Afghanistan. He then met with British and American officers, who finally “acquired” him with other detainees, and took him to Bagram, where he was heavily tortured and sexually abused by American soldiers. He was flown to Guantanamo in August 2002, and released in December 2007 [Interview with Omar Deghayes (annex II, case 8)].
Moazzam Begg, a British citizen, moved to Kabul, with his wife and three children, to become a teacher and a charity worker in 2001. After leaving Afghanistan in the wake of the United States-led invasion, on 31 January 2002, he was abducted from a house in Islamabad, where he was living with his family, and taken to a place in Islamabad (not an official detention facility), where those who held him were not uniformed officers and there were people held in isolation. Held for three weeks, he was moved to a different venue for interviews with American and British intelligence officers, but his wife did not know where he had been taken, and he was denied access to a lawyer or consular services. He was then taken to a military airport near Islamabad and handed over to American officers. He was held in Afghanistan and Guantanamo for three years, and was released in January 2005 [Interview with Moazzam Begg (annex II, case 6)].
154. The Government of Ethiopia served as the detaining authority for foreign nationals of interest to United States and possibly other foreign intelligence officers between 30 December 2006 and February 2007 [For allegations in interviews conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation officers, see for example the case of Meshal vs Higgenbotham. See also Human Rights Watch, “Why am I still here?: the 2007 Horn of Africa renditions and the fate of those still missing” (PDF)]. On 2 May 2007, a number of special procedures addressed the Government of Ethiopia, adding the following details:
In December 2006, the conflict between the militias of the Council of Somali Islamic Courts and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, supported by armed forces of Ethiopia, caused a large flow of refugees seeking to cross the border from Somalia into Kenya. On 2 January 2007, Kenyan authorities announced the closure of the border for security reasons. Since then, it is reported that the Kenyan security forces have been patrolling the border and have arrested a number of those seeking to cross it. Kenya has deported at least 84 of those arrested back to Somalia, from where they were taken to Ethiopia [A/HRC/7/3/Add.1, para. 71].
155. The experts interviewed two of those captured between December 2006 and February 2007: Bashir Ahmed Makhtal (mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s communication) and Mohamed Ezzoueck. The latter, a British national, was detained on 20 January 2007 in Kiunga village, Kenya, after crossing the Somali-Kenyan border and then transferred to Nairobi, where he was held in three different locations. Mr. Ezzoueck reported having been detained in Kenya for about three weeks and then transferred to Somalia, where he was held for a few days before being transferred, via Nairobi, back to London. According to his testimony, he was interrogated by a Kenyan army major and Kenyan intelligence service officers, FBI officers and British security services officers, and repeatedly asked about his involvement with terrorist groups, including Al Qaida [Interview with Mohamed Ezzouek (annex II, case 10)]. Mr. Makhtal, an Ethiopian-born Canadian, was arrested on the border between Kenya and Somalia on 30 December 2006 by intelligence agents and held at a police detention centre. He was subsequently transferred by car to a prison cell in Gigiri police station in Nairobi. On 21 January 2007, the Kenyan authorities sent him to Mogadishu. On the following day, he was taken to Addis Ababa by an Ethiopian military plane. He was then held for approximately 18 months incommunicado in Mekalawi federal prison, often in solitary confinement and in poor conditions, then ultimately sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court of Ethiopia [Interview with Bashir Makhtal (annex II, case 16)].
156. In a letter dated 23 May 2007, the Government of Ethiopia informed the relevant special procedures mandate holders that the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia had handed over to Ethiopia 41 individuals captured in the course of the conflict in Somalia; most of these detainees had been released. Only eight of the detainees remained in custody by order of the court. The Government also noted that “the allegation that there are more than seventy others in addition to those named in the communication is false, as are the allegations that the detainees are held incommunicado, and that they might be at risk of torture” [A/HRC/7/3/Add.1, para. 71]. However, in September 2008, Human Rights Watch published a report stating that at least 10 detainees were still in Ethiopian custody, and the whereabouts of others were unknown [PDF].
157. The experts received information proving that a detainee in the CIA secret detention programme, Mohammed al-Asad, had been transferred by Tanzanian officials by plane to Djibouti on 27 December 2003 [High Court of Tanzania at Dar es Salaam, criminal application No. 23 of 2004, Abdullah Salehe Mohsen al-Asad vs. Director of Immigration Services ex parte Mohamed Abdullah Salehe Mohsen Al-Asaad counter affidavit, 30 June 2004]. In Djibouti, Mr. al-Asad was detained for two weeks in secret detention, where he was interrogated by a white English-speaking woman and a male interpreter, mostly on his connections to the al-Haramain foundation. The woman identified herself as American. Mr. al-Asad’s own recollection is consistent with his having been held in Djibouti. One of his guards told him that he was in Djibouti and there was a photograph of President Guelleh on the wall of the detention facility. After approximately two weeks, Mr. al-Asad was taken to an airport in Djibouti, where a team of individuals dressed entirely in black stripped him, inserted an object in his rectum, diapered and photographed him, and strapped him down in a plane. The detention site may have been in Camp Lemonier, which allegedly has been used on a short-term or transitory basis for several detainees being transferred to secret detention elsewhere.
158. No confirmation has ever been provided by either the Government of the United States or that of Uzbekistan that detainees were rendered to proxy prisons in Uzbekistan. In May 2005, however, the New York Times spoke to “a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States” who stated that the United States had sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation. A United States intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens. The New York Times also obtained flight logs, showing that at least seven flights were made to Uzbekistan from early 2002 to late 2003” by two planes associated with the CIA rendition programme (a Gulfstream jet and a Boeing 737), and noted that, on 21 September 2003, both planes had arrived at Tashkent. According to the newspaper, the flight logs showed that “the Gulfstream had taken off from Baghdad, while the 737 had departed from the Czech Republic”. On 14 August 2009, the BBC interviewed Ikrom Yakubov, an Uzbek intelligence officer who has been granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, who stated that the United States had rendered terrorist suspects for questioning to Uzbekistan, but added, “I don’t want to talk about it as there might be serious concerns for my life in the future to discuss renditions.” On 22 August 2009, the story resurfaced once more, when Der Spiegel reported that, in an arrangement between the private security firm Blackwater and the CIA, Blackwater and its subsidiaries had been commissioned “to transport terror suspects from Guantanamo to interrogations at secret prison camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan”.
D. Complicity in the practice of secret detention
159. After September 2006, the direct role of the CIA in secret detentions seemed to have shrunk significantly, with “current and former American Government officials” explaining in May 2009 to the New York Times that, in the last two years of the Bush administration, the Government of the United States had started to rely heavily on the foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the newspaper, “in the past 10 months, … about a half-dozen mid-level financiers and logistics experts working with Al-Qaida have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries after the United States provided information that led to their arrests by local security services”. Instead of actively detaining persons in secret, the United States — and many other countries — became complicit in the practice of secret detention. For the purposes of the present study, the experts state that a country is complicit in the secret detention of a person in the following cases:
(a) When a State has asked another State to secretly detain a person (covering all cases mentioned in paras. 141-158 above);
(b) When a State knowingly takes advantage of the situation of secret detention by sending questions to the State detaining the person or by soliciting or receiving information from persons who are being kept in secret detention. This includes at least the following States:
- The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in the cases of several individuals, including Binyam Mohamed [Interview with Binyam Mohamed (annex II, case 18)], Salahuddin Amin, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Rangzieb Ahmed and Rashid Rauf [PDF]. In its submission for the present study, the British Government referred to ongoing and concluded judicial assessment of the cases and stressed the work of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, as well as its policy of clear opposition to secret detention [According to the Government of the United Kingdom, the judge in Mr Ahmed’s case stated, “I specifically reject the allegations that the British authorities were outsourcing torture”. The judge examined Mr. Amin’s allegations and found that there was no evidence to suggest that the British authorities had been complicit in his unlawful detention or ill-treatment in Pakistan];
- Germany, in the case of Muhammad Haydar Zammar, who was reportedly interrogated on at least one occasion, on 20 November 2002, by agents of German security agencies while he was secretly held in the Syrian Arab Republic [See “Kanzleramt dealte mit Syriens Geheimdienst”, Der Spiegel, 19 November 2005]. The Government reported having been informed about four cases of renditions or enforced disappearances concerning the Federal Republic of Germany: the cases of Khaled El-Masri, Murat Kurnaz, Muhammad Haydar Zammar and Abdel Halim Khafagy, which occurred between September 2001 and the end of 2005. However, the German authorities did not directly or indirectly participate in arresting these persons or in rendering them for imprisonment. In the cases of El-Masri and Khafagy, the German missions responsible for consular assistance had no knowledge of their imprisonment and were therefore unable to ensure that their rights were observed or guarantee consular protection; in the cases of Zammar and Kurnaz, the German authorities worked intensively to guarantee consular protection. However, they were denied access to the detainees and were thereby prevented from effectively exercising consular protection [Response to a questionnaire on allegations of rendition and detention sent by the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, 30 September 2009]. In a letter dated 9 December 2009, the German Federal Ministry of Justice further reported that it had become aware of the case of Mr. Kurnaz on 26 February 2002, when the Chief Federal Prosecutor informed the Ministry that it would not take over a preliminary investigation pending before the Prosecution of the Land of Bremen. The Office of the Chief Federal Prosecutor had received a report from the Federal Criminal Police Office on 31 January 2002 that, according to information by the Federal Intelligence Service, Mr. Kurnaz had been arrested by United States officials in Afghanistan or Pakistan. In the case of Mr. El-Masri, on 8 June 2004, the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Foreign Office received a letter from his lawyer that Mr. El-Masri had been abducted in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 31 December 2003, presumably transferred to Afghanistan and kept there against his will until his return to Germany on 29 May 2004. The Federal Ministry of Justice was informed about these facts on 18 June 2004. The experts note, however, that according to the final report of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry, the Government became aware of the case of Mr. El-Masri on 31 May 2004, when the Ambassador of the United States informed the Federal Minister for the Interior of Germany [PDF];
- Canada, for providing intelligence to the Syrian Arab Republic in the cases of Maher Arar, Ahmad el-Maati, Abdullah Almaki and Muayyed Nureddin. In its submission for the present study, the Government denied that any of the named individuals was detained or seized by a State at the request of Canada. The experts welcome the fact that all the above-mentioned cases have been the subject of extensive independent inquiry processes within Canada and that, in the case of Mr. Arar, substantive reparations has been provided to the victims;
- Australia, for providing intelligence to interrogators in the case of the secret detention of Mamdouh Habib. Mr Habib also alleges that an Australian official was present during at least one of his interrogation sessions in Egypt. The experts understand that Mr. Habib is currently suing the Government of Australia, arguing that it was complicit in his kidnapping and subsequent transfer to Egypt. In its submission for the present study, the Government denies that any Australian officer, servant and/or agent was involved in any dealings with or mistreatment of Mr. Habib, and refers to ongoing litigation;
(c) When a State has actively participated in the arrest and/or transfer of a person when it knew, or ought to have known, that the person would disappear in a secret detention facility or otherwise be detained outside the legally regulated detention system. This includes at least the following States:
- Italy, for its role in the abduction and rendition of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (also known as Abu Omar), an Egyptian kidnapped by CIA agents on a street in Milan in broad daylight on 17 February 2003. He was transferred from Milan to the NATO military base at Aviano by car, and then flown, via the NATO military base of Ramstein in Germany, to Egypt, where he was held for four years (including 14 months in secret detention) before being released. The European Parliament considered it “very likely, in view of the involvement of its secret services, that the Italian Government of the day was aware of the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar from within its territory” [European Parliament Committee report, paras. 50 and 54]. Prosecutors opened an investigation and charged 26 United States citizens (mostly CIA agents) with abduction, as well as members of the Italian military secret services (SISMI) with complicity in the abduction, among them the head of SISMI [Reply of the Government of Italy to the joint request for relevant information by the four experts (see annex I)]. The Italian Ministry of Justice, however, refused to forward the judiciary’s requests for extradition of the CIA agents to the Government of the United States; as a result, the United States citizens were tried in absentia. On 4 November 2009, the court found 23 of them guilty. The court also convicted two SISMI agents and sentenced them to three years imprisonment for their involvement in the abduction. The then commander of SISMI and his deputy, however, were not convicted, the court having dismissed the cases against them on the grounds that the relevant evidence was covered by State secret [The executive branch of the Government of Italy successfully raised the issue of State secret before the Constitutional Court; see the reply of the Government of Italy to the joint request for relevant information by the four experts (annex I)]. In its submission for the present study, the Government of Italy notes that the case is continuing at the appeal level, which prevents it from drawing any conclusions prior to a definitive verdict;
- Kenya, for detaining 84 persons in various secret locations in Nairobi before transferring them on three charter flights between 20 January and 10 February 2007 to Somalia. They were subsequently transferred to Ethiopia, where they were kept in secret detention. They were not provided with an opportunity to challenge their forcible physical removal at any stage (see also paras. 154-156 above) [See also Meshal vs Higgenbotham; Redress and Reprieve report, “Kenya and counter terrorism: a time for change”, February 2009 (PDF), and Human Rights Watch, “Why am I still here?” (PDF). The experts have received allegations of cooperation with United States intelligence that dates back to 2003; see interview with Suleiman Abdallah (annex II, case 2)].
(d) A specific form of complicity in this context are these cases where a State holds a person shortly in secret detention before handing them over to another State where that person will be put in secret detention for a longer period. This includes at least the following countries:
- The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for its role in the case of Khaled El-Masri [Interview with Khaled el-Masri (annex II, case 9)];
- Malawi, for allegedly holding Laid Saidi in secret detention for a week;
- The Gambia: during an interview with the experts, Bisher al-Rawi reported that, on 8 November 2002, he was arrested upon arrival at Banjul airport by the Gambian Intelligence Agency, then taken to an office and later to a house located in a Banjul residential place before he was handed over to the CIA and rendered to Afghanistan.
(e) When a State has failed to take measures to identify persons or airplanes passing through its airports or airspace after information of the CIA programme involving secret detention had already been revealed. The issue of rendition flights was, and still is, the subject of many separate investigations at the national or regional level. Therefore, the experts decided to refrain from going into the details of this issue [See, inter alia, the European Parliament Committee report, 18 June 2009 (PDF); the statement of the Foreign Secretary to the House of Commons on United States rendition flights, 21 February 2008, and Dick Marty,”Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report” (PDF)].
E. Secret detention and the Obama administration
160. In its response to the questionnaire sent by the experts, the United States stated that:
The Obama Administration has adopted the following specific measures:
- Instructed the CIA to close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operated as of January 22, 2009 and ordered that the CIA shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.
- Ordered that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility be closed as soon as practicable.
- Required the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to be given notice and timely access to any individual detained in any armed conflict in the custody or under the effective control of the United States Government, consistent with Department of Defense regulations and policies.
- Ordered a comprehensive review of the lawful options available to the Federal Government with respect to detention of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.
- Reaffirmed that all persons in U.S. custody must be treated humanely as a matter of law.
- Mandated that detention at Guantanamo conform to all applicable laws governing conditions of confinement, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and directed a review of detention conditions at Guantanamo to ensure such compliance.
- Ordered a review of U.S. transfer policies to ensure that they do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control. The resulting Task Force on transfer practices recommended to the President in August that (1) the State Department be involved in evaluating all diplomatic assurances; (2) the Inspectors General of the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security prepare an annual report on all transfers relying on assurances; and (3) mechanisms for monitoring treatment in the receiving country be incorporated into assurances.
- Announced the transfer of at least 7 detainees from military custody to U.S. criminal law enforcement proceedings, and transferred 25 detainees to date to third-countries for repatriation or resettlement.
- Worked with Congress to revise U.S. laws governing military commissions to enhance their procedural protections, including prohibiting introduction of evidence obtained as a result of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
- Expanded the review procedures for detainees held by the Department of Defense in Afghanistan in order to enhance the transparency and fairness of U.S. detention practices. Detainees are permitted an opportunity to challenge the evidence that is the basis for their detention, to call reasonably available witnesses, and to have the assistance of personal representatives who have access to all reasonably available relevant information (including classified information). Proceedings generally shall be open, including to representatives of the ICRC, and possibly to non-governmental organizations.
- Established more tailored standards and rigorous procedures for evaluating assertions of the State secrets privilege, including establishing an internal accountability mechanism, ensuring that the privilege is never asserted to avoid embarrassment or conceal violations of law, and creating a referral mechanism to the Office of Inspector General where the privilege is asserted but there is credible evidence of a violation of law. These standards and procedures were established in order to strike a better balance between open government and the need to protect vital national security information.
- The Department of Justice initiated a preliminary criminal investigation into the interrogation of certain detainees.
These measures cumulatively seek to reaffirm the importance of compliance with the rule of law in U.S. detention practices, to ensure U.S. adherence to its international legal obligations, and to promote accountability and transparency in this important area of national security policy.
161. The experts welcome the above commitments. They believe, however, that clarification is required as to whether detainees were held in CIA “black sites” in Iraq and Afghanistan or elsewhere when President Obama took office, and, if so, what happened to the detainees who were held at that time. Also, the experts are concerned that the executive order instructing the CIA “to close any detention facilities that it currently operates” does not extend to the facilities where the CIA detains individuals on “a short-term transitory basis”. The order also does not seem to extend to detention facilities operated by the Joint Special Operation Command.
162. The experts also welcome in particular the new policy implemented in August 2009, under which the military must notify ICRC of detainees’ names and identification number within two weeks of capture. Nevertheless, there is no legal justification for this two-week period of secret detention. According to article 70 of the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are to be documented, and their whereabouts and health conditions made available to family members and to the country of origin of the prisoner within one week. Article 106 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (governing the treatment of civilians) establishes virtually identical procedures for the documentation and disclosure of information concerning civilian detainees. Furthermore, it is obvious that this unacknowledged detention for one week can only be applied to persons who have been captured on the battlefield in a situation of armed conflict. This is an important observation, as the experts noted with concern