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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Amnesty International Wants United States to Improve its Human Rights Practices

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 20 October (Asiantribune.com): “Amnesty International is very concerned by the practice of "extraordinary renditions" in which the United States transfers individuals for detention and interrogation to countries with a record of using torture.

"Renditions involve multiple layers of human rights violations including torture and enforced disappearance," said Cox the head of Amnesty International USA. "Every one of the victims of rendition interviewed by Amnesty International has described incidents of torture and other ill-treatment. It is an assault not only on the idea of human rights; it's an assault on the most basic values of this country."

Amnesty International welcomed October 18 U.S. House of Representatives Joint Oversight Hearing on Rendition to Torture: The Case of Maher Arar by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The U.S. laws and international treaties prohibit the transfer of suspects to countries where they are likely to face torture. The United States ratified the United Nation Convention Against Torture and adopted legislation to help implement the treaty obligations through the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 ("FARRA"). The Torture Convention prohibits nations from transferring persons to a country where there is substantial grounds to believe that torture will occur.

"The practice of extraordinary rendition is shrouded in secrecy and puts people at risk of torture and other human rights violations," said Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director. "The Bush administration justified some of these transfers by obtaining 'diplomatic assurances' from countries with dubious human rights records. That's like the fox promising not to eat the hens before he goes into the coup."

To date there have been mixed results in efforts to investigate renditions and hold people accountable. Because of the secrecy surrounding the practice of rendition, and because many of the victims have "disappeared," it is difficult to estimate the scope of the program.

The case of Maher Arar, who is testifying at today's hearing, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent detained at New York's JFK airport and rendered to Syria via Jordan, was thoroughly investigated by the Canadian government. The justice in charge of a Canadian Commission of Inquiry into the Arar rendition concluded, "I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada."

Amnesty International has documented first-hand accounts of this unlawful practice in several reports including the case of three Yemeni men who were not only illegally rendered to Jordan from Indonesia and Tanzania, but also were held in CIA-controlled secret detentions in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

In addition, Amnesty International with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York University International Human Rights Clinic is currently seeking documents related to the rendition and secret detention programs from several U.S. government agencies, including the Departments of Justice and Defense, and the CIA, through a federal lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. The agencies' refusal to release a list of secretly-held detainees and an assessment of the legality of the secret programs prevents scrutiny by the public or the courts of enforced disappearances, and leaves detainees vulnerable to abuses that include torture and other ill-treatment.

Amnesty International is calling on the U.S. government to stop the practice of "extraordinary renditions," accept no diplomatic assurances from countries that have a record of using torture, ensure that airports and airspace are not used to support and facilitate renditions or renditions flights, vigorously investigate violations and hold people accountable for their actions.(Source: Amnesty InternationalUSA)

- Asian Tribune -

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