Did Pakistan take part and collaborate with the US ‘extraordinary rendition’ program?
Yes, it absolutely did.
Though it is impossible to know exactly who and how many were targeted – the US and the Pakistanis have never accounted for the people kidnapped, but the numbers can likely exceed several hundred. And many men still remain missing. See Amnesty International’s report Off the Record; US Responsibility for Enforced Dissappearances in the ‘War on Terror’ June 2007 for a first look at the practice and policies. Also, the Open Society Justice Initiative recently released a report that confirms the continued use of extraordinary renditions by the CIA to ‘black sites’ for interrogation and torture. See Globalising Torture: CIA Secret Detention And Extraordinary Rendition, February 2013. The report is clear in pointing out the ‘eyes averted’ approach that the US, and the nearly 50 other countries that have collaborated with it in this illegal program, has taken to the program. As the report states:
Despite the scale of torture and other human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, the United States and most of its partner governments have failed to conduct effective investigations into secret detention and extraordinary rendition. The U.S. Justice Department’s investigation into detainee abuse was limited to ill-treatment that went beyond what its Office of Legal Counsel had previously authorized, and concluded without bringing any criminal charges, despite ample evidence of CIA torture and abuse. Italy is the only country where a court has criminally convicted officials for their involvement in extraordinary rendition operations. Canada is the only country to issue an apology to an extraordinary rendition victim, Maher Arar, who was extraordinarily rendered to, and tortured in, Syria. Only three countries in addition to Canada—Sweden, Australia, and the United Kingdom—have issued compensation to extraordinary rendition victims, the latter two in the context of confidential settlements that sought to avoid litigation relating to the associated human rights violations. Moreover, it appears that the Obama administration did not end extraordinary rendition, choosing to rely on anti-torture diplomatic assurances from recipient countries and post-transfer monitoring of detainee treatment.
Pakistan’s collaboration is best seen in the case of Marwan Jabour who was arrested in Lahore, Pakistan in May 2004. He was initially taken to a local police station in the city, and then bought to a secret ISI site in Islamabad operated by the Pakistanis and the Americans. It was here in Islamabad that he was first beaten, prevented from sleep for several days, kept naked, chained to a wall and had his penis tied so that he could not urinate. After about a month of this inhumane treatment he was blindfolded, shackled and along with three other prisoners taken to the airport and put on a plane. They were taken to a secret facility in Afghanistan run entirely by Americans. Here he was repeatedly chained in painful positions, held for days in solitary confinement, prevented from seeing daylight for nearly a year-and-a-half. He was also denied all access to his family, lawyers and even the ICRC. It was only nearly two years of this treatment that he was finally sent to Jordan and then to Israel before being released to his family in Gaza. throughout the two-year period of his detention and torture, he never went before a court, or was charged with a crime or allowed to see a lawyer. (from Joanne Mariner, Ghost Prisoner; Two Years in Secret CIA Detention Human Rights Watch, 2007). The list of people rendered from Pakistan is a long one, as documented in the Open Society Justice Initiative report, (pages 36 – 60). But many of those picked up in Pakistan – from major cities like Peshawar, Faisalabad, Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, we often arrested, detained, and tortured by the Pakistani Police or the ISI, before being handed over to the Americans. Quite often the Americans were already present in the Police and ISI interrogation process.
The Open Society Justice Initiative report on torture and renditions is damning of Pakistan’s role in this illegal, inhumane and clearly criminal enterprise. The report categorically states that:
Pakistan captured, detained, interrogated, tortured, and abused individuals subject- ed to CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. It also permitted its airspace and airports to be used for flights associated with these operations.
A 2010 U.N. report observed that from December 2001 until the summer of 2002, Pakistan operated a secret detention program under which detainees were initially detained in Pakistan before being transferred to Afghanistan and/or to Guantánamo Bay. Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged capturing 672 alleged Al Qaeda members and handing over 369 of them to the United States. According to Amnesty International, “[m]ost of the known victims of rendition were initially detained in Pakistan.”
Pakistan has allowed use of its airports and airspace for flights operated by Jeppesen Dataplan that were associated with CIA extraordinary renditions. U.S. court records also show that in 2003, Pakistan allowed use of its airports and air space for at least one flight flown by the private charter company Richmor Aviation, which operated flights for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. This flight was registered as N85VM and stopped over in Islamabad at some point between March 1 and 3, 2003.
Detention facilities in which detainees were held at the behest of the CIA include the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) detention facility in Karachi, which was allegedly used as an initial detention and interrogation point before detainees were transferred to other prisons. Although it is controlled by the ISI, detainees at the facility claim to have been interviewed by both U.S. and British intelligence officials. According to Binyam Mohamed, he was held there for a week and hung by his wrists.
There has been no official investigation in Pakistan into its complicity in CIA extraordinary renditions and secret detentions. While many habeas corpus petitions have been filed in Pakistani courts on behalf of disappeared individuals, the vast majority of these petitions have been dismissed because Pakistani police and military agencies denied arresting or holding the individuals in question. In its 2005 annual report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated that “these cases of disappearance [observed in 2004] brought to light the inadequacies of the habeas corpus process because the superior courts could offer no relief if the agency/force/department named as respondents denied the arrest or detention of the missing persons.”
The track record is a shameful one.