Extraordinary rendition is the kidnapping of an individual wanted for questioning and the transporting of that individual to a country that uses torture – be it physical, mental or emotional – to gain information. Extraordinary rendition was used by US agents after 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’ declared by President G W Bush. Torture is outlawed in America. However, numerous men wanted for questioning by US intelligence agencies were taken from countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan and flown to countries such as Egypt where they were subjected to torture.


Extraordinary rendition is sometimes described as ‘torture by proxy’ in situations where the US is thought to have transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to practise torture. Allegedly the CIA has led an ‘extraordinary rendition’ (the capture and imprisonment of suspected terrorists) operation since 2001 and has captured around 3,000 people and transported them around the world.


A June 2006 report from the Council of Europe estimated that 100 people had been kidnapped by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on EU territory often after having transited through secret detention centres (“black sites”) used by the CIA, some sited in Europe. According to a separate European Parliament report of February 2007, the CIA has conducted 1,245 flights, many of them to destinations where suspects could face torture, in violation of Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Within days of his inauguration in 2008, President Obama signed an Executive Order opposing rendition torture and establishing a task force to provide recommendations about processes to prevent rendition torture.


An example of extraordinary rendition that made public headlines was that of Abu Omar was abducted on 17 February 2003 when he was transferred to Egypt where he was secluded, interrogated and allegedly tortured and abused. On December 6, 2005, the Washington Post reported Italian court documents which showed that the CIA tried to mislead Italian anti-terrorism police who were looking for the cleric at the time. In June 2005, Italian judge Guido Salvini issued a warrant for the arrest of 13 persons said to be agents or operatives of the CIA. The CIA hasn’t commented on the case, while Berlusconi’s government has denied any knowledge of a kidnapping plot. Just after the 2006 Italian general elections, Roberto Castelli, outgoing Justice Minister, declared to Italian prosecutors that he had not passed the extradition request to the US. Marco Mancini, the director of anti-terrorism and counterespionage, and Gustavo Pignero, the department’s director in 2003, have been arrested, on charges of complicity in a kidnapping with the aggravating circumstances of abuse of power.


On February 12, 2007, Mr Nasr’s lawyer said he had been released and was back with his family. On November 4, 2009, an Italian judge convicted 22 suspected or known CIA agents, a U.S. Air Force colonel and two Italian secret agents of the kidnap, delivering the first legal convictions in the world against people involved in the CIA’s extraordinary renditions program.



Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex