Saturday, September 27, 2008

Extraordinary Rendition

Extraordinary Rendition: the apprehension of a person on suspicion of charges and deportation to another country, typically without any trial or finding of guilt.

Since 9/11, the CIA has been linked to the rendering of hundreds of incidents of extraordinary rendition. Individuals suspected either of being terrorists or of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations were deported to countries including Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Uzbekistan.

Two weeks ago, a story of one such case was featured on Fresh Air (on NPR). An innocent man, Maher Arar, a telecommunications engineer with dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship, was deported to a Syrian prison on suspicion of being connected with terrorism. His crime: he had rented an apartment listing as a reference a person allegedly linked to a terrorist group.

Thanks to extraordinary rendition, the government, like Pontius Pilate, can keep its hands clean. Leave it to the Republicans to outsource torture!

There is a time, not so long ago, when it would be unheard of that America would deport someone to a foreign nation to be imprisoned and tortured.

In the case of Mr. Arar, he was tortured and imprisoned for nearly one year. He was released due protests by his wife and a Canadian government determination that he was not connected with any terrorists.

We’ve seen the Bush administration after 9/11 use fear of terrorism to enact erosion of our constitutional rights. Now even American citizens making international calls may find there conversations being listed to by the Feds on an unwarranted wiretap. And God help you if you are an American citizen of Middle Eastern background and your name is the same as, or similar to, someone on the “no fly” list.

But of all these attacks on the constitution, which is no less than the erosion of what our nation once stood for as a beacon of freedom, extraordinary rendition is perhaps the most grievous offence.

For anyone who loves liberty, the preservation of basic human rights is utmost. And the depravation of life or liberty without due process of law violates basic human rights. On this point, I believe that Libertarians and other who cherish freedom should never have to apologize.

Also, it is a clear violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to return people to their home country if there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

The Administration talks about how Saddam was evil for using torture and imprisonment. They say the same about Iran, Syria, North Korea and other nations who “support the terrorists.” Yet the same Administration is responsible for exporting someone merely suspected of being a terrorists to one of the very nations they condemn.

Yes, at the RNC, speakers made fun of those who would grant due process to suspected terrorists. But we must reply that the Republicans are simply wrong on this point. No threat is so great that we should sanction torture by our forces or by others through extraordinary rendition.

What of our presidential candidates?

The “old” John McCain -- himself tortured as a prisoner of war -- used to speak boldly against any use of torture, and he did recommit to rejecting torture in last night's presidential debate. Still, after the RNC rhetoric, I can’t be sure that the “new” McCain still talks the talk. Barack Obama has also opposed torture, but does not have the gut distaste of torture that the "old" McCain had.

But with either candidate, change is likely.

The Change We Need

Our next President must reject the Bush administration’s actions that permitted imprisonment without charges, torture and extraordinary rendition. With these policies, we have become that which we most deplore! How can the US differentiate itself from the terrorists and states that sponsor terrorism if the US allows these practices?

Granted, the terrorists’ threat is real. As I write, there are those that would attack us here at home or abroad. But in our efforts to stop the terrorists, our government cannot stoop to violating human rights. Period.

For an overview of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, see:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rachy,

    This is very insightful post indeed which makes me wonder about how the future shall say regarding this period because the aftermath of such event is still impacting not merely in the USA but mainly worldwide.

    p.s. I've elaborated over this point over my blog within the post entitled "9/11: A Walk to Remember" and inviting you to read it whenever you've time.