Jordan, often described in the mainstream press
as the most moderate country in the Arab Middle East, was the first to receive
prisoners "as a true proxy jailer for the CIA" and has received more
victims of "extraordinary rendition" than any other country in the
world, according to a new
report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The report charges that U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, were aware that "Jordan was already notorious for torturing security
detainees" because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "already
had a history of close relations" with Jordan's General Intelligence Department
HRW charges that "Torture and cruel or inhuman treatment seems to have
been systematically used" against most of the detainees rendered by the
CIA to Jordan. "Detainees claim they were threatened, beaten, insulted,
deprived of sleep, and subjected to falaqa a form of torture
in which the soles of the feet are beaten with an object," HRW says.
The report claims that rendered prisoners were "hidden whenever the International
Committee of the Red Cross visited."
It adds that the CIA's long-standing relationship with Jordanian security
services may have given U.S. officials confidence that the Jordanians "would
be particularly good at keeping the fact of the detentions secret."
Joanne Mariner, director of the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program for
Human Rights Watch, told IPS, "The rendition cases we've documented in
Jordan show the unreality of the [George W.] Bush administration's claims that
it did not hand people over to face torture."
She added, "Not only did the CIA illegally detain prisoners in its own
prisons in the years after Sept. 11, it secretly outsourced the interrogation,
detention, and torture of more than a dozen prisoners in Jordan."
HRW says the precise number of people rendered to Jordan by the CIA is not
known. But it asserts that rendered prisoners were taken to Jordan for one
purpose only: to extract confessions of terrorist activities. "It is clear
that many of the detainees were returned to CIA custody immediately after intensive
periods of abusive interrogation in Jordan," the report says.
Some of these people were then returned to custody in their home countries,
while others were taken to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where
some of them still remain. At least five men who are currently detained at
Guantanamo were previously rendered to Jordan for some amount of time during
the period of 2001 to 2004, HRW says.
In addition, at least two Yemeni prisoners who were later held in secret CIA
prisons without being sent to Guantanamo were arrested in Jordan and
held in the custody of the Jordanian security services for a few days or weeks
prior to their transfer into U.S. custody.
HRW says "Some of the detainees who arrived in Jordan in 2002 were held
for more than a year," leaving Jordanian custody in 2004. Some former
prisoners told Human Rights Watch that "for a while in 2002 and 2003 the
detention facility was full of non-Jordanian prisoners who had been delivered
by the CIA."
The report says that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA
quickly began rendering suspected terrorists to Jordan for interrogation.
The number of detainees rendered by the CIA to Jordan may have declined over
time because the CIA developed its own detention capacity, opening secret facilities
in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, and Romania, and had less need to rely on
Jordan, the HRW report says.
The report concludes that U.S. government officials, including Rice, were
well aware of the hollowness of the "diplomatic assurances" it received
from Jordan that it would not subject rendered prisoners to torture.
The report recalls that Rice, under pressure from European allies because
of press revelations about CIA activities in Europe, offered a vigorous defense
of U.S. rendition practices in December 2005.
Arguing that the practice of rendition was a "vital tool in combating
transnational terrorism," Rice insisted that the United States "does
not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another
for the purpose of interrogation using torture." Instead, she explained
that, where necessary, "the United States seeks assurances that transferred
persons will not be tortured."
However, HRW says, "The systematic nature of the abuses suffered by prisoners
rendered to Jordan contradicts Rice's bland reassurances. If the Jordanians
did indeed promise the U.S. authorities that prisoners rendered there would
not be tortured, it was a promise that neither the U.S. nor Jordan believed."
The Jordan chapter of the U.S. State Department's 2001 human rights report
states that prisoners in the custody of Jordanian police and security forces
have alleged that "methods of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings
on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions,
and extended solitary confinement."
The report notes that Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer who claims to
have initiated the terrorist rendition program during the Bill Clinton administration
(1993-2001), "rightly dismisses these assurances as 'legal niceties'
pledges meant to look good on paper, which provide no real protection."
HRW reports that Pakistan, and in particular the city of Karachi, was the
source of at least six detainees believed to have been rendered to Jordan from
U.S. custody. "The Pakistani authorities have made no secret of the fact
that since September 2001 they have handed over several hundred terrorism suspects
to the United States, boasting of the transfers as proof of Pakistan's cooperation
in U.S. counterterrorism efforts," HRW says.
"A large number of these men ended up at Guantanamo; some ended up in
secret CIA prisons, and others were rendered to Jordan and other countries."
The U.S. practice of rendering terrorist suspects abroad transferring prisoners
to foreign custody outside of normal legal proceedings predates the 9/11
attacks on the U.S. During the Clinton administration, the CIA rendered a number
of Egyptian terrorist suspects from countries such as Albania and Croatia to
Egypt, where some of them had previously been sentenced to death in absentia.
HRW notes that after September 2001, the CIA's rendition practices changed.
"Rather than returning people to their home countries to face 'justice'
(albeit justice that included torture and grossly unfair trials), the CIA began
handing people over to third countries apparently to facilitate abusive interrogations."
Following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush signed a classified presidential
directive giving the CIA expanded authority to arrest, interrogate, detain,
and render terrorist suspects arrested abroad. Since that time, the U.S. is
believed to have rendered terrorism suspects to the custody of Egypt, Morocco,
Libya, and Syria, in addition to Jordan.
The HRW report calls on the U.S. government to repudiate the use of rendition
to torture as a counterterrorism tactic, discontinue the CIA's rendition program,
and "disclose the identities, fate, and current whereabouts of all persons
detained by the CIA or rendered to foreign custody by the CIA since 2001, including
detainees who were rendered to Jordan."
(Inter Press Service)