Monday, May 23, 2005

Rendition violates the Convention Against Torture

It's official: the US practice of extraordinary rendition (by which the US outsources the messy business of torture to compliant tyrannies like Syria, Egypt and Uzbekistan) violates the UN Convention Against Torture. At least, that's the ruling of the UN Committee Against Torture in the case of a man rendered from Sweden to Egypt by US authorities.

The man - Ahmed Agiza - had applied for political asylum in Sweden in 2001, but was turned down on security grounds. According to a Swedish TV report, he was then arrested in the middle of the night by Swedish police and driven to the airport where he was turned over to hooded US agents. He then became one of the first unwilling passangers on the now-infamous "torture plane", and was flown - hooded, shackled, and sedated - to Egypt, where he was tortured. While the Swedish government had received an "assurance" that Agiza would not be subjected to such treatment, the UN Committee Against Torture ruled that they should have known better, as

Egypt resorted to consistent and widespread use of torture against detainees and that the risk of such treatment was particularly high in the case of detainees held for political and security reasons.

Sweden was thus found to have violated Article 3 of the Convention, which bans expelling, returning, or extraditing someone to another state "where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture". But the same applies to every other country which hands people over to the US for extraordinary rendition - and to the US itself. An "assurance" from torturers is not worth the paper it is written on; the current US practice of using such "assurances" as paper cover for torture is simply indefensible.