Basically it's the practice of a government detaining (arresting) -- well, actually, flat out kidnapping someone and then instead of holding them publicly, legally, and in that government's own territory, they ship them to another country's custody to hold secretly and indefinitely.
Okay, so everyone keeps saying the US is practicing extraordinary rendition in the war on terrorism, why would the US take all that time and effort to capture someone and then give them to another country to hold?
Well, the official reason is that we don't do rendition. Or at least it was until a week after the midterm election...
What's so wrong with rendition and why would we deny it? Let's back up and do a bit of history on international law and human rights in wartime. International law (especially the Geneva Conventions, but also more specific laws on torture, etc...) states that a prisoner of war must be guaranteed certain rights while in the custody of their enemy. These include basic human necessities such as medical care, health care, food and shelter. They also include among other things the right to not be tortured, subjected to cruel and inhuman punishment, the right to legal counsel and most importantly the right of a international human rights based non-governmental organization (NGO) to verify that the conditions of a person's detention do not violate International Law and the right to let the prisoner's country of citizenship know they are being detained. Well, the US is a signatory (and even the author) of many of the international human rights laws and conventions. As the most powerful nation in the world until 2001, we officially and for the most part in practice stood firmly on the Geneva Convention and in return we were at least publicly held out as the as the moral authority in the world. (That was something to be proud of by the way...).
If we don't torture, we can then hold others accountable for torture (Remember that old favorite parental saying "do as I say, not as I do" and how well that kept you in check in high school? Same concept.) . This was US and international doctrine for over 60 years...
Back to the question (why would we do rendition?), well, we say we aren't doing rendition. And yet, there is now irrefutable proof that we are doing rendition. Only one real reason can be given for this conundrum, we don't want anyone to know what we are doing to these prisoners.
Why wouldn't we want anyone to know what we are doing to these prisoners or that they even exist? The only reason is that we were hiding something.
Hummm...no prisoner, no rules to follow??
Why hide what we are doing? Really , only a few real answers exist to this one. We hide it because what we are doing would be illegal, immoral, embarrassing or all of the above.
What were we hiding? From the stories now being told, we are hiding torture and murders even worse than we could perpetrate in the public eye at Abu Girab or Guantanamo or in Afghanistan. We may never know, because they won't tell us. We may never truly know who, how many or the fates of those who are los desaparecidos in American custody.
Well, if this stuff is against international law, where could you take people? We don't really know for sure, the US gov't refuses to admit all the locations. But we know people have been taken to places like secret Afghan bases and even suspect that some are being held in places like Syria and some old Soviet Union countries that do not currently conform to the international laws against these practices.
The US government has finally admitted (because of a leak last summer) that these secret rendition locations exist all over the world. They will not disclose locations, prisoner's information, or allow the NGO's to investigate to this day, and yet, they claim they have done nothing wrong.
What happens when you are a victim of extraordinary rendition by the US government? Well, one person can tell you. His name is Khalid El-Masri and you'll see him on TV in the next few days. He was kidnapped by the CIA. Taken to Macedonia and Afghanistan. Tortured. Not allowed to contact anyone for months, and eventually after they were satisfied he was innocent, released in the dark on a deserted mountainside in Albania. He a lucky one, he's lived to tell the story:
“I have come to America seeking three things. An acknowledgement that the United States government is responsible for kidnapping, abusing and detaining me; an explanation as to why I was singled out for this treatment; and an apology because I am an innocent man who has never been charged with any crime.”-- Khaled El-Masri, a victim of extraordinary rendition
- Learn more about El-Masri v. Tenet.
- Watch Mr. El-Masri and his attorneys tell the story in their own words.
- And tell others about the case, and the unthinkable acts perpetrated in our name - and now being deliberately covered over through an abuse of the "state secrets" privilege.
So, what the Heck Is "Extraordinary Rendition"?
It is your shame, it is my shame, it is the shame of everyone who supports or ever supported this insane dictator whom we currently allow to remain our president.
It is what has been done in our name. The shame will echo through generations...
Some media on the visit of El-Masri this week in the US.
The New York Times, Neil Lewis, "Man Mistakenly Abducted by CIA Seeks Redress," Associated Press, Desmond Butler, "Alleged Torture Victim Speaks to Press,"
Associated Press, Larry O'Dell, "Appeals court hears case alleging CIA torture of German man,"