April 8, 2008

Rendition to Jordan

After September 11, 2001, the CIA quickly began rendering suspected terrorists to Jordan for interrogation.[23]  The first case may have been that of Jamal Mar'i, a Yemeni living in Karachi, who was picked up by a joint team of CIA and Pakistani intelligence operatives at his home on September 23.  Within a few weeks of his arrest, he was delivered to GID custody in Jordan, where he was held for several months.  Mar'i, who is now in detention at Guantanamo, has not complained of being tortured in Jordan; in this respect his case is unusual.

What is typical about Mar'i's case-and what distinguishes it from pre-September 2001 renditions-is that Mar'i was not Jordanian, and had no particular connection to Jordan.[24]  The GID had no obvious reason to be concerned about Mar'i, beyond an interest in helping the CIA.  It appears, in short, that the GID acted as a true proxy jailer for the CIA: primarily serving the CIA's interests, rather than collaborating with the agency for its own security reasons.

The fact that several detainees were later returned to CIA custody after spending time in Jordan further suggests that the GID's goal in the rendition program was assisting the CIA rather than directly furthering Jordanian security objectives.  Such people were not actually handed over; rather they were effectively lent to Jordan for interrogation purposes.  At least five men who are currently detained at Guantanamo were previously rendered to Jordan for some amount of time during the period of 2001 to 2004.  In addition, at least two Yemeni prisoners who were later held in secret CIA prisons (without being sent to Guantanamo) were arrested in Jordan and held in GID custody for a few days or weeks prior to their transfer into US custody.[25]

Al-Sharqawi, one of the detainees whom the CIA delivered to Jordan in 2002, noticed that GID interrogators were extremely eager to provide information to the CIA.  In the note that al-Sharqawi wrote while in GID detention in 2002, he said:

Every time that the interrogator asks me about a certain piece of information, and I talk, he asks me if I told this to the Americans.  And if I say no he jumps for joy, and he leaves me and goes to report it to his superiors, and they rejoice.[26]

He later told his lawyers that one of his Jordanian interrogators acknowledged that he was asking questions that the Americans had provided.[27]

Not long after Ma'ri was transferred to Jordan, another Yemeni living in Pakistan was apparently sent there as well.  Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed was a student; he was studying microbiology at KarachiUniversity.  After being arrested by the Pakistani security forces and handed over to US authorities, he was reportedly flown to Jordan in the early morning hours of October 24, 2001.  Very little is known about his case, since he has not been seen since that time, but journalists reported that he was an Al Qaeda operative.[28]

A third person rendered to Jordan in 2001 was Mohamedou Ould Slahi.  Slahi, a Mauritanian citizen, was arrested in Mauritania in November 2001, brought to Jordan soon after, and held there until July 2002.  Like Mar'i and others, he is currently incarcerated at Guantanamo.

Several prisoners were believed to have been rendered by the US to Jordan in 2002, including Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, Hassan bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ibrahim Abu Mu'ath al-Jeddawi, Abu Hamza al-Tabuki, Khayr al-Din al-Jaza'eri, Abu Yousef al-Jaza'eri, Abu Hassan al-Suri, and Abu Bakr Saddiqi, as well as a number of people whose names are unknown.[29]  Although it is difficult to know with certainty-and additional prisoners reportedly arrived in 2003-it appears that 2002 was the year in which the CIA delivered the largest number of people to Jordan.  (This may be because as time went on the CIA developed its own detention capacity, opening secret facilities in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, and Romania, and had less need to rely on Jordan.[30])  Some of the detainees who arrived in Jordan in 2002 were held for more than a year, leaving GID custody in 2004.  While it is impossible to estimate the total number of people who were rendered to Jordan, some former prisoners told Human Rights Watch that for a while in 2002 and 2003 the third floor of the GID detention facility was "full" of non-Jordanian prisoners who had been delivered by the CIA.

Pakistan, and in particular the city of Karachi, was the source of at least six detainees believed to have been rendered to Jordan from US custody.  The Pakistani authorities have made no secret of the fact that since September 2001 they have handed over several hundred terrorism suspects to the United States, boasting of the transfers as proof of Pakistan's cooperation in US counterterrorism efforts.[31]  A large number of these men ended up at Guantanamo; some ended up in secret CIA prisons, and others were rendered to Jordan and other countries.[32]

Another source of prisoners was the Pankisi Gorge, in Georgia.  Home to thousands of Chechen refugees, the Pankisi Gorge borders on Russia's Chechnya region and has long served as an entry point for Arab mujahideen seeking to fight in Chechnya.  In early 2002, under US pressure, the Georgian government began arresting Arabs found there, including a number of Algerians.[33]  Some of these men were transferred to proxy CIA prisons in Afghanistan, and then sent to Guantanamo, but others were brought by the CIA elsewhere.  At least four of the men who were reportedly rendered to Jordan in 2002-Khayr al-Din al-Jaza'eri, Abu Yousef al-Jaza'eri, Abu Hassan al-Suri and Abu Bakr Saddiqi-were reportedly picked up in Georgia.  (Khayr al-Din al-Jaza'eri, an Algerian, is also described in the court opinion of a high-profile French terrorism prosecution as a militant who operated in the Pankisi Gorge.[34])  The current whereabouts of all four men are unknown, although it is likely that they were at some point transferred to their home countries for continued detention.

Torture and cruel or inhuman treatment seems to have been systematically used against the detainees rendered by the CIA to Jordan, with the exception of al-Mar'i.  As described in detail below, detainees claim that they were threatened, beaten, insulted, deprived of sleep, and subjected to falaqa.  In addition, they appear to have been systematically hidden from the ICRC representatives who visited the GID detention facility.  Human Rights Watch interviewed several former GID detainees who said that they were hidden whenever the ICRC visited, and that prisoners rendered to Jordan by the United States were hidden as well.

Al-Tabuki, the Saudi who was in GID custody in 2002, described how he was hidden during the ICRC's visits:

Early in the morning, the guards would come, telling us to pack all of our clothes and belongings, and they would take us while we were blindfolded to cells and areas that the Red Cross does not know exist. We would remain there the entire day until their visit ended, and then would be returned back to our cells. They [the ICRC] would either be given the impression that the floor was empty, or it would be filled with prisoners who had legal status. And sometimes we had with us Jordanian prisoners who the Red Cross would learn about only through their families, rather than the legal system. They would move us with those prisoners to the guards' quarters, where we would remain the whole day, sitting down blindfolded, and with our hands manacled behind our backs, until the Red Cross's visit was over.  And if the Red Cross did not complete its visit and would return the next day, this same scenario would be repeated.[35]

Similarly, Sharqawi told his lawyers that whenever ICRC representatives visited the GID facility, he would be moved to the soldiers' lecture room at and kept there until the representatives left.

The secrecy surrounding the detention of these men continues.  While five people who were previously rendered to Jordan are now at Guantanamo, and two are believed to have been released, the current whereabouts of most of the prisoners whom the US rendered to Jordan is not known.  It is quite possible that many or all of the remaining detainees underwent a second rendition, being transferred from Jordan back to their home countries without any legal proceedings or any opportunity to challenge the transfer.

[23] Several journalists have reported on renditions to Jordan, as well as on CIA prisons allegedly located there.  Their reports have been incomplete, however, and based on information received from Guantanamo detainees and unnamed intelligence sources, rather than from Jordanian detainees held with the rendered suspects.  See, for example, Yossi Melman, "CIA holding Al-Qaida suspects in secret Jordanian lockup," Haaretz, October 13, 2004 (stating that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubaydah, and Hambali were among at least 11 senior Al Qaeda suspects held in CIA custody in Jordan); Ken Silverstein, "U.S. partnership with Jordan was targeted," Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2005 (stating that Jamal Mara'i and Hassan bin Attash were rendered to Jordan); Farah Stockman, "7 detainees report transfer to nations that use torture," Boston Globe, April 26, 2006 (stating that Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Jamal Mar'i, Hassan bin Attash, and Al-Shaqwi (Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi) were rendered to Jordan); and Craig Whitlock, "Jordan's Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA," Washington Post, December 1, 2007 (stating that Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, Jamil Qasim Saeed Muhammed, and Jamal Ma'ri were sent to Jordan, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh may have been).  See also Amnesty International, "Jordan: 'Your confessions are ready for you to sign': Detention and torture of political suspects," July 2006 (describing post-September 2001 cases of Jamal Ma'ri, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Jamil Qasim Saeed Muhammed, Abo al-Hitham Sharqawi, Hassan bin Attash, and Maher Arar).

[24] In contrast, all the people whom the US rendered to Egypt prior to September 2001 were Egyptian citizens over whom the Egyptian government was clearly eager to obtain custody.  Moreover, nearly all of the people known to have been rendered to Egypt after September 2001 are also Egyptian citizens, although in some of the cases it does not appear that the Egyptian government had a strong interest in detaining them.

[25] The two men are Muhammad Faraj Bashmilah and Salah Nasir Salim 'Ali Qaru (Darwish).  They were arrested in October and September 2003, respectively.  After relatively brief periods of detention in Jordan, they were transported by the US to Afghanistan where they were secretly detained.  See Amnesty International, "USA/Yemen: Secret Detention in CIA 'Black Sites,'" AMR 51/177/2005, November 2005.

[26] Note from Ali al-Hajj al-Sharqawi, written approximately October 2002 (on file at Human Rights Watch).

[27] Lawyers' notes, undated (2007).

[28] See Masood Anwar, "Mystery Man Handed over to US Troops in Karachi," The News International (Pakistan), October 26, 2001; Alissa Rubin, "Pakistan Hands Over Man in Terror Probe," Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2001; Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Peter Finn, "U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects," Washington Post, March 11, 2002.

[29] Note that some of these names are likely nicknames rather than real names: for example, "al-Suri" means "the Syrian"; "al-Jaza'eri" means "the Algerian."

[30] See Dana Priest, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons," New York Times, November 2, 2005; Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, "Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states," Doc. 11302 rev., June 11, 2007.

[31] See Human Rights Watch, "Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention," February 2007, pp. 31-32.

[32] Many of those who spent time in secret CIA prisons or were rendered to other countries were later transferred to Guantanamo.

[33] The US government acknowledged this pressure in the Georgia section in its annual terrorism survey, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002, which says: "In 2002, the United States strongly urged Georgia to regain control of the Pankisi Gorge where third-country terrorists with links to al-Qaida had established themselves. These extremists threatened Georgia's security and stability, as well as Russia's."  US Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, April 30, 2003, p. 29.  The US also provided military training to Georgian troops, with the stated goal of "clear[ing] Georgia's Pankisi Gorge region of foreign fighters." Ibid., p. 154.

[34] Verdict, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, case of Marbak Lebik Benhamed et autres, June 14, 2006, p. 88.

[35] Abu Hamza al-Tabuki, Jordanian Intelligence and its Services to US Intelligence in its War on the Mujahidun and Iraq, written in early 2003 (hereinafter al-Tabuki account) (copy on file at Human Rights Watch.  On a visit to the GID detention facility in August 2007, Human Rights Watch was prevented from freely visiting the guards' quarters, which are located in the outer walls of the same two triangular buildings, easily accessible through doors that were locked at the time of our visit. We were able to see the guards' washroom and one large room with bunk beds for guards. It was clear that within the larger building there were rooms in which prisoners could be hidden.