The Practice and Legality of Rendition


“Rendition” is the United States’ policy of sending terrorism suspects to be interrogated in Middle Eastern countries that practice torture.

This Article introduces the subject by describing a complaint filed in a lawsuit by Canadian citizen Maher Arar. The United States sent Arar from John F. Kennedy airport to Syria, where he was tortured and was held in a grave-sized cell for nearly a year. Arar alleges that his transfer violated the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”).

Arar’s lawsuit may be dismissed before the court reaches the substance of his claims. But much of the evidence needed to evaluate his charges is already a matter of public record. This Article attempts to compile that evidence, which has been reported in hundreds of different sources, into single coherent account for the first time.

This factual information, important in its own right, is also crucial in addressing the Bush administration’s most common defense of rendition: the argument that before every rendition it obtains diplomatic assurances that a suspect will not be tortured, and these are enough to reduce the odds of torture to under 50 percent and comply with Article 3 of the CAT.

Article 3 requires the administration to consider all evidence relevant to the danger of torture before transferring a prisoner. A thorough review of this evidence demonstrates that the odds of torture after a rendition are far greater than fifty percent, and diplomatic assurances do virtually nothing to reduce those odds.


Human Rights Law | Immigration Law | International Law

Date of this Version

October 2005