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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Virginia Law Panel Debates Extraordinary Rendition and Torture

Graham"The controversial use of extraordinary renditions to interrogate or detain suspected terrorists has evolved since its first use by the United States in 1995, but the practice fails to address concerns about torture and may be ineffective in quashing terrorism, said panelists at a Feb. 16 discussion at the University of Virginia Law School. Moderated by JAG Legal Center and School Executive Director David E. Graham (pictured), the panel featured Michael F. Scheuer, author of the best-selling Imperial Hubris and former chief of the CIA Bin Laden Unit, and Margaret L. Satterthwaite, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law.

“Suspected terrorists are often transferred from one state to another for the purpose of arrest, detention, and/or interrogation,” Graham said. “This act of transfer itself is an act of rendition, and I say that so that you don’t…take away the idea that the word ‘rendition’ is, in and of itself, a dirty word. It’s not.” If undertaken under the full construct of the law, as it most often is, Graham said, this process is better known as extradition. Irregular or extraordinary rendition occurs when prisoners are extradited through a process that does not afford them an opportunity to judicially challenge their transfers...Some reports, none substantiated, suggest that over 100 extraordinary renditions have occurred since 9/11, according to Graham. “The Bush administration has said that [it does] not engage in extraordinary rendition for the purpose of…intelligence interrogation using torture as a method,” he said. “They don’t deny that extraordinary renditions have occurred.”

Nonetheless, many critics continue to believe that these renditions are conducted in order to gain crucial information through the torturing of suspected terrorists. While the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which the United States has ratified, forbids transfers to states where there is a “substantial likelihood” that an individual will be tortured, it does not forbid transfers to locations where certain kinds of treatment that might be considered cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under U.S. law might occur. Nor does the CAT forbid renditions, Graham said." More. . . [Mark Godsey]

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