When Jordan’s King Abdullah II addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress in March 2007, his speech was filled with words like peace and justice.
He was, of course, referring to the plight of the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle with Israel. He had a good case to make.
And Congress gave him a standing ovation for making it.
But what he left out was any reference to Jordan’s own state of peace and justice. Now we learn that this small Mideast country –often described by the mainstream media as the most moderate of America’s allies in the region -- was the first to receive prisoners “as a true proxy jailer for the CIA”, has received more victims of “extraordinary rendition” than any other country in the world, and has systematically subjected detainees to torture.
These are the principal conclusions of a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), a Washington-based advocacy organization. The report charges that U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, were aware that “Jordan was already notorious for torturing security detainees” because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “already had a history of close relations” with Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID).”
HRW charges that “Torture and cruel or inhuman treatment seems to have been systematically used” against most of the detainees rendered by the CIA to Jordan.
“Detainees claim they were threatened, beaten, insulted, deprived of sleep, and subjected to falaqa -- a form of torture in which the soles of the feet are beaten with an object,” HRW says.
The report claims that rendered prisoners were “hidden whenever the International Committee of the Red Cross visited.” It adds that the CIA’s long-standing relationship with Jordanian security services may have given U.S. officials confidence that the Jordanians “would be particularly good at keeping the fact of the detentions secret.”
Joanne Mariner, Director of the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program for Human Rights Watch, told us, “The rendition cases we've documented in Jordan show the unreality of the Bush administration's claims that it did not hand people over to face torture.” She added, “Not only did the CIA illegally detain prisoners in its own prisons in the years after September 11, it secretly outsourced the interrogation, detention, and torture of more than a dozen prisoners in Jordan.”
HRW says the precise number of people rendered to Jordan by the CIA is not known. But it asserts that rendered prisoners were taken to Jordan for one purpose only: to extract confessions of terrorist activities. “It is clear that many of the detainees were returned to CIA custody immediately after intensive periods of abusive interrogation in Jordan.”
Some of these people were then returned to custody in their home countries while others were taken to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some of them still remain. 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, HRW says.
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 the custody of the Jordanian security services for a few days or weeks prior to their transfer into U.S. custody.
HRW says “Some of the detainees who arrived in Jordan in 2002 were held for more than a year”, leaving Jordanian custody in 2004. Some former prisoners told Human Rights Watch that “for a while in 2002 and 2003 the detention facility was full of non-Jordanian prisoners who had been delivered by the CIA.”
The report says that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the CIA quickly began rendering suspected terrorists to Jordan for interrogation. Those rendered by the CIA to Jordan may have declined over time because the CIA developed its own detention capacity, opening secret facilities in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, and Romania, and had less need to rely on Jordan, the HRW report says.
The report concludes that U.S. government officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, were well aware of the hollowness of the “diplomatic assurances” it received from Jordan that it would not subject rendered prisoners to torture. The report recalls that Rice, under pressure from European allies because of press revelations about CIA activities in Europe, offered a vigorous defense of U.S. rendition practices in December 2005.
Asserting that the practice of rendition was a “vital tool in combating transnational terrorism,” Rice claimed that the United States and other countries have long relied on renditions to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were arrested to their home country or to other countries where they can be held and questioned.