More than a quarter of the world’s governments covertly helped support the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program during the Bush administration, according to a new report.
At least 54 world governments cooperated with the global kidnap, detention and torture operation mounted after 911, according to the 213-page report published Monday by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based human rights organisation.
Weaving together letters, testimony from humans rights organizations and other public sources, the OSJI report draws the most comprehensive detailing of the clandestine operation.
The role some countries, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Egypt, had in the program has been known for years. But others who took part, including Ireland, Iceland, and Cyprus, comes as a surprise to some.
An interactive guide created by the UK Guardian highlights what these countries did in the program. Iceland opened its airspace and airports to planes involved with renditions for example, while South Africa gave the CIA “carte blanche” to persue the abduction and rendition of Saud Memon, a Pakistani national accused of taking part of journalist Daniel Pearl.
Iran, vilified as one of the so-called Axis of Evil by President Bush, is said to have participated by handing over 15 individuals to Kabul shortly after the U.S invaded Afghanistan, fully knowing they would fall into American hands.
The report accuses the United Kingdom of being of the biggest offenders. Not only did it support CIA rendition operations, interrogated people being secretly detained, and allowed the use of British airports and air space, the OSJI concludes that the UK also arranged for one man, Sami al-Saadi, to be rendered, along with his entire family, to Libya, where he was subsequently tortured, and provided intelligence that allowed a second similar operation to take place.
In total, 25 European, 14 Asian and 13 African countries took part in the rendition program.
Many countries could be now brought up on charges at the European Court of Human Rights, Amrit Singh, the author of the OSJI report, told the UK Guardian. Macedonia has already been found guilty of the illegal imprisonment and torture of a German national. Charges are being brought up against Poland, Lithuania and Romania, who allegedly hosted secret prisons in their countries. Italy, facing human rights charges, has upheld the conviction of the CIA’s local station chief and two other Americans involved in the 2003 kidnap of a Muslim cleric.
The OSJI is calling on the U.S. government to repudiate the rendition program, close all its remaining secret prisons, mount a criminal investigation into human rights abuses – including those apparently endorsed by government lawyers – and create an independent and non-partisan commission to investigate and publicly report on the role that officials played in such abuses.
The organization is also calling on non-U.S. governments to end their involvement in rendition operations, mount effective investigations – including criminal investigations – to hold those responsible to account, and institute safeguards to ensure that future counter-terrorism operations do not violate human rights standards.