Monday, April 18, 2005

U.S. and other countries deporting people for torture

Human Rights Watch has charged numerous western governments, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, and Germany, of increasingly sending suspects to abusive states on the basis of flimsy “diplomatic assurances” that expose the detainees to serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

“Governments that engage in torture always try to hide what they’re doing, so their ‘assurances’ on torture can never be trusted,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This is a very negative trend in international diplomacy, and it’s doing real damage to the global taboo against torture.”

States that offer such assurances include some of the most abusive regimes in the world—Syria, Egypt and Uzbekistan. Transfers have also been effected or proposed to Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Russia, and Turkey, where certain people—for example, suspected Islamists, Chechens, or Kurds—are singled out for particularly brutal abuse.

Officials in the United States recently acknowledged that they had sent an undisclosed number of suspects to countries where torture is a serious human rights problem. In an increasing number of those cases—so-called “extraordinary renditions”—the suspects have credibly alleged that they were tortured.

“Governments that are using diplomatic assurances know full well that they don’t protect against torture,” said Roth. “But in the age of terror, they’re convenient. Only pressure from the public in Europe and North America can stop this negative trend.”

Governments rely on a variety of devices to transfer suspects to other countries, including renditions, removals, deportations, extraditions and expulsions. But none of them is legally permissible if the person to be transferred is at risk of torture on return.

“If these suspects are criminals they should be prosecuted, and if they’re not, they should be released,” said Roth. “But shipping them off to countries where they’ll be tortured is not an acceptable solution.”


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