Links for International Organisations
The International Committee of the Red Cross was established in 1863. One of its main remits is to promote the laws that protect victims of war. Its mandate stems from the 1949 Geneva Conventions. One of the ICRC’s most important roles is to visit individuals that have been detained during armed conflict. These visits are intended to ensure that the detainees, whatever the reasons for their arrest, are treated with dignity and humanity, in accordance with international norms and standards. The US has frequently denied ICRC access to individuals detained in Guantánamo Bay and its other detention facilities elsewhere in the world. The ICRC has repeatedly expressed concern at the legal status of the Guantánamo detainees, arguing that the US has placed them beyond the law, by refusing to recognise them as prisoners of war.
UN Commissions and Committees
The UN has a number of Commissions who are involved in on-going efforts to monitor the performance of signatory states to its various Conventions that relate to human rights. It has also established committees to investigate various human rights violations in the 'War on Terror'.
The various human rights bodies of the United Nations Organisation sit under the UN High Commission for Human Rights. Of relevance to rendition and secret detention are the Committee Against Torture, the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture, and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
Made up of ten independent experts, the UN Committee Against Torture monitors the implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment by states that are signatories to the Convention. States that are signatories are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how rights are being implemented. Under Article 20 of the Convention, the Committee is empowered to carry out a confidential inquiry if it receives reliable information which appears to it to contain well-founded indications that torture is being systematically practised in a state that is a signatory to the Convention. Individuals and third parties acting on their behalf can also bring complaints to the Committee if their own rights under the Convention have been violated.
Under the Optional Protocol of the Convention Against Torture, which was adopted in 2002 and came into force in 2006, the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture was established. Its mandate is two-fold. Operationally, it visits all places of detention in states that are signatories to the Optional Protocol. It also has an advisory function aimed at assisting states and organisations within the state engaged in efforts to prevent torture. The US has not ratified the Optional Protocol.
The mandate of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is to assist the relatives of disappeared persons to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of their disappeared family members. The Group receives and examines reports of disappearances submitted by relatives of disappeared persons or human rights organisations acting on their behalf. After determining whether those reports comply with a number of criteria, the Working Group transmits individual cases to the Governments concerned, requesting them to carry out investigations and to inform the Working Group of the results. The Working Group was involved in the carrying out the UN Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism which was published in February 2010.
In April 2005, the Commission on Human Rights decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. In December 2007, its mandate was extended for a further three years. Its work included carrying out the Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism, which was published in February 2010.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint a special rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture. The mandate was extended for 3 years by Human Rights Council resolution 8/8 in June 2008. It covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The rapporteur was involved in the Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism, which was published in February 2010.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in 1991 by the former Commission on Human Rights, to investigate cases of arbitrary detention. The Group was involved in the Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism, which was published in February 2010.
Both the African Union and the EU have been made aware of the complicity of their member states in rendition and secret detention. Within the EU committess have been established and investigations undertaken and states have been called to account for their own roles in the global rendition system.
In March 2011, lawyers from the US' Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and and UK's Interights filed a case on behalf of Mohammed al-Asad against the state of Djibouti for complicity in his rendition and torture, before the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. The Commission has jurisdiction over states that have ratified the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe investigated the complicity of Council of Europe member states in rendition and secret detention. The investigation was carried out by Dick Marty, who reported his findings in a detailed report in June 2007.
The European Parliament set up the Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners in January 2006 to investigate whether the CIA or other US agents of intelligence services of other third countries had carried out rendition, secret detention or torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners on the territory of the European Union. Its findings were reported by Giovanni Claudio Fava in January 2007, and European Parliament passed two key resolutions as a result, urging member states that had been complicit in rendition to act immediately to halt all such practices, to investigate them fully, and to compensate victims.
Lawyers acting on behalf of a number of victims of rendition and secret detention have brought cases to the European Court of Human Rights against member states of the EU, seeking reparation for complicity in rendition or secret detention, or to challenge extradition to Guantánamo Bay.