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Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture
Michael John Garcia (au)
Persons suspected of criminal or terrorist activity may be transferred from one State (i.e., country) to another for arrest, detention, and/or interrogation. Commonly, this is done through extradition, by which one State surrenders a person within its jurisdiction to a requesting State via a formal legal process, typically established by treaty. Far less often, such transfers are effectuated through a process known as “extraordinary rendition” or “irregular rendition.” These terms have often been used to refer to the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one State to another. Although the particularities regarding the usage of extraordinary renditions and the legal authority behind such renditions are not publicly available, various U.S. officials have acknowledged thepractice’s existence. During the Bush Admin., there was some controversy as to the usage of renditions by the U.S., particularly with regard to the alleged transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques that may rise to the level of torture, purportedly with the knowledge or acquiescence of the U.S.This report discusses relevant international and domestic law restricting the transfer of persons to foreign states for the purpose of torture. The U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and its domestic implementing legislation (the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998) impose the primary legal restrictions on the transfer of persons to countries where they would face torture. Both CAT and U.S. implementing legislation generally prohibit the rendition of persons to countries in most cases where they would more likely than not be tortured, though there are arguably limited exceptions to this prohibition. Under U.S. regulations implementing CAT, a person may be transferred to a country that provides credible assurances that the rendered person will not be tortured. Neither CAT nor its implementing legislation prohibit the rendition of persons to countries where they would be subject to harsh treatment not rising to the level oftorture. Besides CAT, additional obligations may be imposed upon U.S. rendition practice via the Geneva Conventions, the War Crimes Act (as amended by the Military Commissions Act (P.L. 109-366)), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
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