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We have published a number of academic papers on the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Programme. The following are all published open access, so click on the links below to access the full text:


Sam Raphael, Crofton Black, Ruth Blakeley, and Steve Kostas, ‘Tracking rendition aircraft as a way to understand CIA secret detention and torture in Europe’, The International Journal of Human Rights, 20(1), June 2015, pp.78-103. ISSN: 1364-2987 print/ 1744-053X online. DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2015.1044772.

Abstract: We examine how the tracking of rendition aircraft has provided a much fuller understanding of the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation programme. In particular, we show how this illuminated the role played by European states. Through various investigative methods, new rendition aircraft were identified, significant amounts of flight data were gathered, and data on all known and suspected rendition flights were collated into one public, searchable database. We show that examining logistical elements of covert programmes can prove fruitful for security and human rights research. Furthermore, we demonstrate the benefits of close academic–practitioner collaboration in the field of human rights.


Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘British Torture in the “War on Terror”’, European Journal of International Relations, 23 (2), June 2017, pp.243-266. ISSN: 13540661 print/ 14603713 online. DOI: 10.1177/1354066116653455.

Abstract: Despite long-standing allegations of UK involvement in prisoner abuse during counterterrorism operations as part of the US-led ‘war on terror’, a consistent narrative emanating from British government officials is that Britain neither uses, condones nor facilitates torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. We argue that such denials are untenable. We have established beyond reasonable doubt that Britain has been deeply involved in post-9/11 prisoner abuse, and we can now provide the most detailed account to date of the depth of this involvement. We argue that it is possible to identify a peculiarly British approach to torture in the ‘war on terror’, which is particularly well-suited to sustaining a narrative of denial. To explain the nature of UK involvement, we argue that it can be best understood within the context of how law and sovereign power have come to operate during the ‘war on terror’. We turn here to the work of Judith Butler, and explore the role of Britain as a ‘petty sovereign’, operating under the state of exception established by the US executive. UK authorities have not themselves suspended the rule of law so overtly; indeed, they have repeatedly insisted on their commitment to it. Nevertheless, they have been able to construct a rhetorical, legal and policy ‘scaffold’ that has enabled them to demonstrate at least procedural adherence to human rights norms while, at the same time, allowing UK officials to acquiesce in the arbitrary exercise of sovereignty over individuals who are denied any access to appropriate representation or redress in compliance with the rule of law.


Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘Conducting Effective Research into State Complicity in Human Rights Abuses’, Contemporary Social Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/2158204120171391406.

Abstract: This paper explores how to conduct effective research into state complicity in human rights abuses. This type of research is challenging: the secretive nature of state violence presents considerable difficulties for the researcher, in terms of both access to evidence, and the safety and security of the researcher and victims. Recent developments in the methods and types of data available present new opportunities for strengthening research. Drawing on our own experience, specifically our work to map the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation programme, we aim to show how we have navigated the difficult terrain of human rights investigation. The paper begins by exploring a number of challenges involved. We then discuss recent developments in human rights investigation techniques, as well as the emerging body of critical scholarship that is beginning to shape this kind of work among practitioners and academics alike. We consider some of the imbalances of power that affect this type of research. We then demonstrate how we tried to embrace new opportunities, while being mindful of the risks involved and the limitations of what we can achieve. We close with some reflections on ways forward for this type of research.


Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, ‘The Prohibition Against Torture: Why the UK Government is Falling Short and the Risks that Remain’, The Political Quarterly, published online 26 April 2019. DOI: 10.1111/1467-923X.12688.

Abstract: While the UK's official position is that it neither uses nor condones torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT), it is now a matter of public and parliamentary record that UK security services and military personnel colluded in rendition, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, both as part of the CIA's Rendition, Detention and Interrogation (RDI) programme, at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, and through involvement in the detention and interrogation of prisoners by allied security forces. This paper will explain why the government is falling short of its obligations under international law, and why considerable risks remain that UK intelligence and security services will continue to collude in torture and CIDT.


Ruth Blakeley and Sam Raphael, 'Accountability, Denial and the Future-Proofing of British Torture', International Affairs, published online 20 March 2020. DOI:

When powerful liberal democratic states are found to be complicit in extreme violations of human rights, how do they respond and why do they respond as they do? Drawing on the example of the United Kingdom's complicity in torture since 9/11, this article demonstrates how reluctant the UK has been to permit a full reckoning with its torturous past. We demonstrate that successive UK governments engaged in various forms of denial, obfuscation and attempts to obstruct investigation and avoid accountability. The net effect of their responses has been to deny the victims redress, through adequate judicial processes, and to deny the public adequate state accountability. These responses are not simply aimed at shielding from prosecution the perpetrators and those who have oversight of them, nor preventing political embarrassment. The various forms of denial and obstruction are also designed to ensure that collusion can continue uninterrupted. A core concern of intelligence officials and ministers has been to prevent any process that would lead to a comprehensive prohibition on involvement in operations where torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment are a real possibility. The door remains wide open, and deliberately so, for British involvement in torture.





Rendition Research Team - © University of Kent
University of Westminster University of Kent E.S.R.C