WASHINGTON, DC -
Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), a
senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security, today
introduced legislation to outlaw the current U.S. government
practice of sending terrorism suspects to foreign governments
known to engage in torture. The bill has been endorsed by Human
Rights Watch and Human Rights First.
Extraordinary rendition is outsourcing
torture, and it is morally repugnant to allow such a practice to
continue, said Rep. Markey. Rep. Markey added, The legislation I
am introducing today is designed to ensure that we not only ban
torture conducted by our own forces, but we also stop the practice
of contracting out torture to other nations. Torture enabled by
extraordinary rendition is outrageous and must be stopped.
The practice of extraordinary rendition, the
extra-judicial removal of people in U.S. custody both domestically
and abroad to foreign governments that are known to use torture,
has received little attention because of the degree of secrecy
with which it occurs. Attention was first drawn to the practice in
September 2002 when Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was seized
while in transit to Canada through JFK airport, and sent to Jordan
and later Syria at the request of the CIA. While in Syria, Arar
was tortured and held in a dark, 3-by-6-foot cell for nearly a
year. He was ultimately released and detailed his story to the
media upon his return to Canada.
Since that time, other press reports have
identified renditions elsewhere around the world, such as the
transfer of an Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, from
Pakistan to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured.
Although the total numbers of those rendered
by the Bush Administration are unknown, then-CIA director George
Tenet testified to the 9/11 Commission in October 2002 that over
70 people had been subjected to renditions prior September 11.
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU
have detailed numerous other cases and are pursuing litigation in
some of them. Last year, the Canadian government launched an
investigation into Arars case, but the U.S. State Department has
refused to cooperate with the Canadian investigation.
The Markey bill directs the State Department to
compile a list of countries that commonly practice torture or
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during detention and
interrogation, and prohibit rendition to any nation on this list.
The bill explicitly permits legal, treaty-based extradition, in
which suspects have the right to appeal in a U.S. court to block
the proposed transfer based on the likelihood that they would be
subjected to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Rep. Markey concluded, Extraordinary rendition
violates the Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. has signed
and ratified. Sending suspects to nations where they are likely to
be tortured puts our own soldiers at risk of being subjected to
the same brutal treatment. The practice of outsourcing torture
must be stopped. The bill Im introducing today would do that.
Additional information is available at Rep.