Rendition: Eating Garlic with the Mouth of the Undemocratic
By Anouar M’zoudi
Morocco World News
Ithaca, New York, July 3, 2012
In the post 9/11 world many government officials, experts, intellectuals and ordinary people started arguing that laws that protect human rights must be suspended or at least selectively suspended to secure the societies that are under the threat of terrorist acts. Sets of laws, regulations and methods have been introduced to achieve this objective. One of the methods that violates basic human rights and started to be used widely to combat terrorism is rendition, or the extradition of terrorism suspects to undemocratic countries for interrogation. In this article, I will highlight why it is urgent to deal with the issue of rendition and what alternatives should be considered.
Rendition is a clear violation of human rights. Article 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (United Nations 1948). The UN Convention Against Torture includes a specific article on the extradition of detainees to countries where they might be subjected to torture (United Nations 1984). According to an Amnesty International (2011) report, despite United Nations accords, many terrorism suspects are being extradited systematically by the United States government and the governments of the European Union to countries known for their inhumane methods in dealing with detainees. A report by Statewatch.org (2005) has indicated that more than 30 countries are involved in the rendition process, either as transfer locations or as interrogation destinations. Some of the countries involved include Albania, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, and Cuba (Statewatch.org 2005).
It is urgent to address the issue of rendition because it puts the western democratic system of rule into question, and it undermines the West’s claim of respect for human rights. In addition, rendition makes undemocratic states less concerned about the repercussions of abusing their own citizens since human rights violations are sanctioned by western governments in the War on Terror. Concerning the failed criminal investigation of Britain’s involvement in CIA renditions in Libya, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights asks: “How can the EU, which portrays itself as a human rights standard-bearer, presume to tell other governments, notably those involved in the Arab Spring, how important human rights are when it steadfastly refuses to investigate its own alleged complicity in torture and disappearance?” (Amnesty International 2012).
The urgent task is not only to restore the reputation of democratic nations, but also to end human rights violations of rendered detainees. Detainees who are extradited endure horrendous systematic maltreatment. Furthermore, on a reoccurring basis suspects are found to be innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a television interview with Democracy Now! (2003), Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin, who was deported from the United States to Syria, detailed all sorts of abuses that he endured in Syria. Arar was in fact innocent of the accusations made by the United States government, and was ultimately released from detention from the pressure that the Canadian government put on Syria. Khaled El-Masri, another innocent suspect, was released from his Afghan jail after the CIA had confirmed that he was the wrong guy. El-Masri, a German citizen of Egyptian origin, claimed that he was kidnapped from Macedonia and tortured in Afghanistan (Myers & the NBC investigative unit 2005).
The Arab Spring makes it a further necessity to end rendition programs. “Newly born democracies” in the Arab world will no longer tolerate the use of violence against their own citizens. The Arab Spring blossomed out of struggles for human dignity as people of the region have been feeling undignified by the lack of respect for human rights, along with the lack of representation and accountability in policy making. In Morocco, a country that has been politically and socially affected by the 2011 popular uprisings, the 20February Movement (the movement that has called for and led major protests for political reforms) along with other human rights organizations have been calling for an investigation of the existence of a secret detention center in the country. This call culminated in a large-scale protest near the premises of one of the detention center allegedly used by Moroccan intelligence to interrogate rendered detainees (The Daily Star 2011). However, the Moroccan government denied the allegations from these civil society groups.
The supporters of rendition argue that states have a responsibility to make sure that their citizens are safe from terrorist attacks, and that states are supposed to use all possible means to expose terrorist plots. However, the question that must be addressed is: Does rendition really succeed in safeguarding citizens by exposing terrorist plots? Does torturing detainees work to this end? There is strong evidence that it does not. Detainees under torture might say what the torturers want to hear. They might make up stories to mislead the torturers. Matthew Alexander (2011), a former senior US military interrogator who conducted or supervised more than 1,300 interrogations in Iraq, concluded that torture does not really work. What torture does is bring US government conduct down to the level of its “foes” (Alexander 2011). Alexander (2011) also notes the ironical fact that the information that led to the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the two declared targets of the War on Terror, was not even obtained through torture.
What alternative courses of action should states be pursuing to restore peace and security without violating international conventions on human rights? First and foremost, a political debate must be opened to pave the way for legislative action against rendition. This debate can begin with inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963), who wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The world must seek to build a just world and a sustainable future for all. We must begin to build a “global security net” through foreign policy that rejects inequality and wealth stratification and supports shared and sustainable prosperity (Keleher 2011). The proposed policy of building justice and addressing the issues and the conflicts that terrorists use to justify their actions is not inspired by the threat of terror and is not sympathetic to terrorist ideology. The Arab Spring has made the violent methods of change preached by Al-Qaida look pale and ineffective compared to occupying the streets and the squares of the Arab world by peaceful women and men. The Arab Spring has created an atmosphere that is more amenable to debates about international justice.
The next most important policy to end rendition programs is helping new democracies flourish. Terrorists are not born, they are made. Decades of exclusion and oppression brought about a population willing to use force for political ends. Now it is the time to engage the Muslim-majority world in a debate about democratization and political participation. Democratic spaces and venues must be created and protected for people to express their opinions and views about what is happening in their own countries. The goals of the uprisings of 2011 are universal. Those who marched in the streets and occupied public squares want democracy, equality and social justice. These popular demands are the basis for ending exclusion which breeds violent alternatives.
As a conclusion, rendition proves to be wrong in many ways. It is a violation of the United Nations conventions. It reflects badly on the democratic traditions of western nations. It provides an excuse for undemocratic nations to continue to abuse their own citizens. It triggers the opposition of human rights groups and activists across the world. Are not these enough reasons to rethink the practice of rendition? Why don’t we consider other options to help create a world free of terrorism? Why don’t we work on establishing a more democratic and just world order?
Anouar M’zoudi is a University of Cambridge certified ESL instructor and a Freelance translator. He Blogs at: http://manouar.blogspot.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
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