UN counterterrorism official criticizes US court decision on rendition information

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] on Thursday expressed regret over a US court decision [press release] denying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [National Security Archive] requests by a member of the UK parliament and the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition [official website]. Earlier this month the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted the US government's motion to dismiss [opinion, PDF] the FOIA challenge based on a provision of the act that exempts US intelligence agencies from disclosing information to foreign government entities. The court noted that, although it is bound to enforce the provision as it is written, the rule could easily be circumvented by someone who is not a representative of such a foreign entity to retrieve the information and then disclose it to the parliament members, since there is no restriction on what a person does with the information once it is retrieved under the act. Regardless, Emmerson stated that the court's decision "flies in the face of the principles of best practice for the oversight of intelligence services." The requests by the UK parliament members were part of an investigation into the US extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive], which allegedly allowed the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] to extrajudicially capture foreign terrorism suspects for detention and interrogation. Emmerson supports the UK investigation of the program, arguing that the court's decision was based on a misunderstanding of the UK constitution, in that the All-Party Parliament Group is a separate entity from the UK government, and as such its FOIA requests should have been granted.

Last month Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged all EU member states to reconsider involvement in the CIA extraordinary rendition program. In 2010 the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] appealed to the US Supreme Court [JURIST report] a lawsuit challenging the extraordinary rendition program. The suit alleged unlawful rendition and torture of terror suspects, but had been dismissed by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based on a claim by the US Department of Justice [official website] that discovery in the case would violate the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive]. Also in 2010, WikiLeaks [advocacy website] released a document showing that the Bush administration strongly urged Germany to not prosecute CIA officials [JURIST report] involved in the arrest and torture of a German citizen. The documents revealed that US officials were to carefully consider how prosecution of the officials would affect relations with the US, although US officials maintained they did not threaten Germany. Earlier that year the US Supreme Court denied certiorari [JURIST report] to a Canadian citizen seeking to overturn a lower court ruling that denied him the right to sue the US government under the Torture Victim Protection Act [text].

 

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