When Extraordinary Rendition Becomes Ordinary

From Holden:

The Bush assministration’s favorite torture franchise appears to be Egypt.

The United States and other countries have forcibly sent dozens of terror suspects to Egypt, according to a report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch. The rights group and the State Department have both said Egypt regularly uses extreme interrogation methods on detainees.


The report said the total number sent to Egypt since the Sept. 11 attacks could be as high as 200 people. American officials have not disputed that people have been sent to countries where detainees are subjected to extreme interrogation tactics but have denied that anyone had been sent to another country for the purpose of torture. Among other countries to which the United States has sent detainees are Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Syria.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said sending someone to a country where he was likely to be tortured was banned under international law. “Egypt’s terrible record of torturing prisoners means that no country should forcibly send a suspect there,” he said.

The United States began sending terror suspects to Egypt in the mid-1990’s when the practice, known formally as rendition, began to play a larger role in counterterrorism, according to officials from the Clinton administration.

But since September 2001, the transfers have accelerated in part because Egypt has been willing to accept the detainees as part of its effort to root out Islamic militants inside Egypt, a campaign that has extended to countries where extremists have taken refuge. Almost all those sent to Egypt are Egyptian citizens or were born there, the report said.

Although torture is forbidden under Egyptian law, the country has long been criticized by the State Department for a poor human rights record, most recently in a Feb. 28 annual report by the agency that concluded, “Torture and abuse of detainees by police, security forces and prison guards remained common and persistent.”

Human rights groups have been even harsher. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, a nongovernmental group, reported in May 2004 that it had uncovered 292 cases of torture between 1993 and 2003, of which 120 led to death.