Tuesday, August 25, 2009


There are times the news cycle is so full, it's easy to miss important announcements and events that pertain to human rights. Our "On the Radar Screen" posts are intended to alert our readers to such news to ensure you stay informed.

In the midst of recent announcements about the release of reports detailing CIA interrogations involving guns and drills and Attorney General Holder's decision to appoint a special prosecutor (and the reactions of various members of Congress thereto encouraging a broader investigation), you may have missed an important piece of news:

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced that it would, like the Bush administration, send terrorism suspects to other countries for interrogation and detention. This practice, known as "rendition," was widely condemned during the Bush administration for the simple fact that, in practice, it often meant buying someone a ticket back to torture.

Despite the Obama administration's promise to monitor the treatment of prisoners sent to other countries, many human rights advocates condemn the decision on the grounds it would still allow transfers to countries with a clear history of torture. We have seen in the past that so-called “diplomatic assurances” do not guarantee the prisoner will not be tortured.

Though we are encouraged by the administration's statement that the "Interrogation and Transfer Policy Task Force" will operate "more openly" and in greater cooperation with the State Department, ensuring that the United States meets all of its international legal obligations requires more than a newly-minted task force with an official-sounding name and assurances from our own government to ensure transferred detainees are not abused.

We will continue to monitor this matter and update you as it unfolds - how openly will the ITP Task Force actually operate? And what weight will "diplomatic assurances" from other countries be given? Has Obama learned from the mistakes of the past administration or must others suffer (while we as a country endure more embarrassment) before we change course?

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