U.S. allies told to review role in secret renditions – By Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters)

March 10th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

A United Nations investigator urged U.S. allies from Britain to Pakistan on Tuesday to fully investigate whether they helped in secret renditions that led to the illegal torture or disappearance of terror suspects.

Martin Scheinin, U.N. special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism, cited “credible” reports that the United States sent suspects for interrogation at covert detention centers in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, as well as CIA-run “black sites” through at least May 2007.

In an annual report presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council, he urged “all relevant authorities of countries that have allegedly participated in extraordinary renditions, torture, disappearances, secret detentions or any other serious human rights violation to investigate fully any wrongful acts of intelligence agencies committed on their territory.”

While the system was put in place by the Bush administration following the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States, Sheinin said “it was only possible through collaboration from many other states.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Britain, Canada, Croatia, Georgia, Indonesia, Kenya, Macedonia and Pakistan appear to have provided intelligence or carried out the initial seizure of a suspect, according to Scheinin.

Terrorism suspects were transferred to Afghanistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Thailand and Uzbekistan, he said in the 26-page report.

“In many cases the receiving states reportedly engaged in torture and other forms of ill-treatment of these detainees.”

Torture is banned under international law and states must ensure that victims are compensated, according to Scheinin, a Finnish law professor serving in the independent post.

“DARK PAGE” IN U.S. HISTORY

In a speech to the Geneva-based Council, Scheinin said that he would visit Egypt in April, and would undertake a joint study on secret detention worldwide with U.N. torture investigator Manfred Nowak.

“The United States has indicated that it wants to move forward and turn this dark page in its history, but in other countries this practice or permission of secret detentions — often of people who have been branded as terrorist suspects — is continuing,” Scheinin said, without giving details.

“Before a page can be turned, we have to know what’s on it, in order to move forward,” he added.

Scheinin voiced concern that in some countries, broad powers has been given to intelligence agencies to interrogate, arrest and detain people, often so as to circumvent legal safeguards.

“This shift can ultimately endanger the rule of law, as the collection of intelligence and the collection of evidence about criminal acts becomes more and more blurred,” he said.

Some states preferred to use “undisclosed evidence gathered by intelligence agents” in administrative proceedings rather than attempting to prove a suspect’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, he said.

In such cases, intelligence has to be turned into “concrete evidence and proof” so that the suspect can challenge it.

He was concerned at an increasing use of “data mining” by intelligence agencies — the matching of various data bases to construct a “terrorist profile” used on watch lists at airports.

This “blurs the boundary between permissible targeted surveillance and problematic mass surveillance,” he said.

Scheinin also raised concerns about the sharing of data and information between intelligence agencies within the framework the Western military alliance NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization linking countries including China and Russia.

These “often provide an insurmountable wall against independent investigations into human rights violations and increasingly serve as a tool to conceal illegal acts from oversight bodies or judicial authorities,” he said.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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