Background

  • After the September 11th attacks in 2001, the United States of America began a program of “extraordinary extradition and detention,” where the U.S.A. partnered with over 50 nations worldwide to abduct selected citizens of these various countries, transport them through extrajudicial means to further partnered countries in the program, and “interrogate” the individuals. These interrogations often incorporate so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,”  a U.S. government euphemism for torture, including such techniques as:
    • “stress positions”
    • mock executions
    • waterboarding
    • “pressure points”
    • “water dousing”
    • “hard takedowns”
    • “insult slaps”
    • sleep deprivation
    • forcing individuals to watch torture videos
    • forcing individuals to listen to sounds of “electric sawing accompanied by cries of pain”
    • threatening to kill or rape individuals’ family members
  • The locations where these individuals are held and interrogated are not disclosed to the public and are considered top secret by the United States government, and are known as “black sites”.
  • Black sites are operated by the United States government through the Central Intelligence Agency, or C.I.A., and simply exist outside the United States to bypass the laws concerning what is considered internationally as a blatant violation of human rights, a strategy known as “torture by proxy”.
  • Many European nations are known to have either collaborated in the transfer of individuals to, or to themselves host, black sites, including Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Spain.
  • Several nations in the Middle East are known to have hosted U.S. black sites, including Afghanistan, where the first of its kind where created, including a location known as “The Salt Pit,” where an individual detained there froze to death after being forced to strip naked, chained to the concrete floor, and then left overnight without blankets.
  • In 2006, the Bush administration of the United States officially admitted to the existence of C.I.A. black sites, at least five years after they had been officially introduced.

Key Legal Issues

  • The problem with black sites is the very reason why the United States government continues their existence: the individuals involved have no basic human rights granted to them
  • Despite being considered a violation of international law, and a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations, the abduction of citizens of foreign nations by the United States continues today
  • In effect, the individuals detained have only the rights that their captors themselves decide to grant them
  • Non-government organizations focused on humans rights such as The Red Cross have attempted to support the basic human rights that they believe detainees are entitled to, but have struggled to do so, as simply determining who is even detained in the U.S. black sites can be difficult to impossible to their secretive nature.
  • Because the black sites exist in various nations but are effectively under the control of the United States by proxy, determining the jurisdiction that they exist under is complicated, but is often effectively ignored, and the sites continue to run today essentially without any form of legal authority.

Case

  • One case that involved the use of C.I.A. black sites was that of a German and Lebanese man called Khalid El-Masri.
  • In May 2004, El-Masri was detained, extradited to Afghanistan, and interrogated using some of the aforementioned advanced interrogation techniques for several months.
  • Afterwards, he was released in remote Albania, all without having been charged with any offence whatsoever.
  • The entire reason that El-Masri was detained was because of the similar spelling of his name to that of a suspected terrorist, called Khalid al-Masri.
  • In 2006, El-Masri filed suit against the C.I.A., in a suit titled El Masri v. Tenet
  • However, the suit was ultimately dismissed, by reason of the United States claiming the rule of the state secrets privilege, meaning that any evidence that would be presented in the suit might present and disclose “sensitive information”
  • Six years later, El-Masri won a case in the European Court of Human Rights, where the court sided with him, but surprisingly they found Macedonia guilty, rather than the United States, as the nation where El-Masri was initially detained transferred him to the C.I.A., and was cognizant that torture was an eventual possibility having done so.