UN study reveals worldwide use of secret detention centers to counter terrorism

[JURIST] Dozens of countries have illegally used secret detention facilities in their counter-terrorism efforts, according to a joint study [text, DOC; press release] issued Tuesday by four independent UN investigating groups. Information for the detailed study was collected through a questionnaire completed by 44 countries, as well several interviews with former detainees, their families, or their legal counsel. The study was particularly critical of actions taken by the US government since it began its "War on Terror" [JURIST news archive] in 2001. The report also acknowledged [Reuters report] that detainees are being secretly held in Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Russia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The study stated:


International law clearly prohibits secret detention, which violates a number of human rights and humanitarian law norms that may not be derogated from under any circumstances. If secret detention constitutes enforced disappearances and is widely or systematically practiced, it may even amount to a crime against humanity. However ... secret detention continues to be used in the name of countering terrorism around the world. The evidence gathered by the four experts for the present study clearly show that many States, referring to concerns relating to national security – often perceived or presented as unprecedented emergencies or threats – resort to secret detention.

The study will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council [official website] in March, and will contain many recommendations, including making secret and unofficial detention strictly prohibited.

The US has recently come under fire for its alleged use of secret detention facilities [JURIST news archive] operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. Last month, a Lithuanian parliamentary committee confirmed that the CIA had established two secret prisons for al Qaeda suspects, prompting a dispute that led to the resignation [JURIST reports] of the country's foreign minister. On his third day in office last January, US President Barack Obama ordered the closure [JURIST report] of all CIA secret prisons. The European Parliament voted [JURIST report] in February 2007 to approve a report that condemned member states for cooperating with the CIA in operating secret prisons. In January 2007, the UK admitted knowledge of the CIA prison network, and then-president George W. Bush publicly acknowledged [JURIST reports] in September 2006 that these types of facilities existed. In June 2006, the Council of Europe [official website] released [JURIST report] a report [text, PDF] that 14 European countries collaborated with the CIA by taking an active or passive role in a "global spider's web" of secret prisons and rendition flights. The existence of CIA prisons in Europe was first reported in November 2005.


 

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