Friday, December 22, 2006

‘Fit only for nightmares’

The term “rendition” was used during the slavery era in the USA to describe the capture and return of runaway slaves to their respective states. Today the term is synonymous with the wholesale abandonment of the rule of law by the Bush-Blair axis, as a new report demonstrates. Domestically, their crimes and misdemeanours include the suppression of civil liberties and increased, unlawful surveillance. Abroad, they are guilty as charged of breaking international law with illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and for the process infamously known as ”extraordinary rendition”. This term is, as the report by Cageprisoners points out, a euphemism for abduction, kidnap, false imprisonment, torture and even death. The report estimates that over 14,000 people around the world are being held in ghost detention sites under direct US control, or by others at their behest. In a recent investigation, the European Parliament condemned the British government’s role and accused ministers of a concerted attempt to obstruct investigations into it. It expressed "serious concern" about 170 stopovers at British airports by CIA-operated aircraft which on many occasions came from, or were bound for, countries linked with "extraordinary rendition circuits". The MEPs expressed outrage at what they said was the view of the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Sir Michael Wood, that "receiving or possessing" information extracted under torture, was not banned under international law. He declined to give evidence to the committee in an arrogant display of New Labour’s contempt for the rule of law.

The report, Beyond the Law - The War on Terror’s Secret Network of Detentions for the first time brings together information that has been collated over the last year from different sources working to reveal the global system. Asim Qureshi, who led the Cageprisoners research team, says: “Of the more important findings that the list highlights are the alarming number of countries involved in the practice, the extent to which the US has been complicit in many of those detentions, and also the complete lack of due process throughout the system.” He adds that the system often to people being held in circumstances which are “fit only for nightmares”, adding: “The practice of torture is prevalent in the prison systems of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, and other countries across the Middle East and Sub-Continent, and yet many detainees have been outsourced to these places with full knowledge of what will take place against them.”. While the United States and Britain preach democracy to the rest of the world, the report reveals how they are engaged in enforced disappearances on a mass scale in the name of the so-called “war on terror”. In practice, theirs is a war of terror, whose victims include not only the thousands held in ghost camps around the world, but the rule of law itself. We have been warned.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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