Over 50 nations assisted in ‘war on terror’

A hard-hitting report by a human rights organisation has pieced together evidence that 54 nations — including Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Syria — had participated in “secret detention, extraordinary rendition, and enhanced interrogation” programmes conducted regularly by the U.S. government since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. India was not included in the list.

The report, issued by the Open Society Justice Initiative, part of the Open Society Foundation (OSF) based in New York, was authored by a team including Amrit Singh, daughter of India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. In it, the organisation argued that though torture and rendition programmes were “designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, [they] could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments”. These governments too must be held accountable, it said.

In the report titled “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition”, the organisation provides a detailed account of how it collected evidence of torture and rendition from credible public sources.

“This report is the most comprehensive catalogue of the treatment of 136 individuals reportedly subjected to these operations,” the report said, adding that while there may be many more such individuals, the total number will remain unknown until the U.S. and its partners made this information publicly available.

The report lists all 136 alleged detainees, including a Libyan woman, Fatima Bouchar, who was seized in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur and, according to her husband, was abused by the CIA for several days in a special room in the airport. Ms. Bouchar also reported that she was “chained to a wall and not fed for five days, at a time when she was four-and-a-half months pregnant”.

The list also includes alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, on trial at the U.S.’ Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and potentially facing the death penalty. According to the report, within days of his arrest in Pakistan, the CIA secretly detained him in Afghanistan and then transferred him to Poland, “where he was water-boarded 183 times”.

A leaked International Committee of the Red Cross report suggested Mohammed “knew that he was in Poland when he received a bottle of water with a Polish label”.

In its recommendations, the report asks the U.S. government to repudiate the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition; cease reliance on “diplomatic assurances” against torture as a basis for transferring individuals to foreign countries; disclose information relating to the human rights violations that did occur; create an independent, non-partisan board to review compensation claims from victims; and institute safeguards to ensure that future joint counterterrorism operations do not run afoul of human rights standards.

It acknowledges that under the Obama administration the U.S. government’s position on torture and rendition has changed substantively. In particular, in December 2012, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to approve a comprehensive report on CIA detention and interrogation and though the report is classified, Committee Chair Senator Dianne Feinstein reportedly said “she and a majority of the committee believed that the creation of long-term, clandestine black sites and the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were terrible mistakes”.

She also noted that the report would settle the debate once and for all over whether the U.S. should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques.

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