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Jordan: Renditions - New report says Jordan is key hub in secret CIA programme

Country’s notorious security agency’s use of torture instrumental in ‘war on terror’

Jordan is a key “hub” in the USA’s secret “renditions” programme, said Amnesty International today (24 July), as it published a new report revealing the extent of illegal detention and torture in the country.

The 51-page report, “Your confessions are ready for you to sign”, describes the cases of dozens of individuals subjected to torture in Jordan, ten of whom appear to be rendition victims. These latter men had been taken to Jordan from a variety of countries - including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the USA and Indonesia - and were in several cases held and tortured for months before being further moved to places like Guantánamo Bay, the notorious “Prison of Darkness’” in Afghanistan, and even apparently to totally secret “black site” prisons.

In one case - of a man “rendered” from Pakistan to Jordan - the plane involved was a known CIA Gulfstream jet. The following day the plane flew to Glasgow Prestwick airport in Scotland to refuel, before then returning to an airport near Washington in the United States.

Some detainees in Jordan have reportedly been held at a secret detention centre - al-Jafr prison - in a desert in south-east Jordan, said to be run in jointly by the Jordanian authorities and US intelligence agencies. Amnesty International is concerned that al-Jafr may amount to a “black site” detention centre.

Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart said:

"Jordan appears to be a central hub in a global complex of secret detention centres operated by the US in coordination with foreign intelligence agencies.

"It is into this complex that suspects 'disappear' - and are held for interrogation indefinitely, outside any legal or administrative process.”

Amnesty International’s report shows that torture - whether of people “rendered” to the country or of Jordan’s political suspects - has mainly be committed by the country’s General Intelligence Department (GID), a military security agency directly linked to the Jordanian prime minister Marouf Bakhit.

Malcolm Smart said:

“GID officers have extensive powers and benefit from near total impunity - acting virtually as a law unto themselves. The GID's powers to hold detainees indefinitely and deny them all contact with the outside world is a recipe for torture and other abuse."

The report provides details of GID torture methods, including "falaqa" - where the soles of the victims feet are repeatedly beaten with a stick; other beatings with sticks, cables, plastic pipes, ropes or whips; and "shabeh" ("the phantom"), where the victim is suspended for hours by their handcuffed wrists and then beaten.

In one case reported to Amnesty International, a teenage boy was tied to the back of a Toyota pick-up truck and dragged around a detention centre courtyard, causing severe injuries to his back.

On case featured in the report is of Yemeni national Hassan Saleh bin Attash, who was 17 when arrested in September 2002 in Pakistan. After four days in a Karachi prison, he was taken to the US-run “Prison of Darkness” in Kabul where, he told his lawyers, he was held and tortured. On 19 September he was rendered to Jordan and held for 16 months and repeatedly tortured, particularly in a place known as “the courtyard,” believed to be within the GID detention centre in Wadi Sir, Amman. His lawyer said that Hassan told his interrogators “whatever they wanted to hear”. There are also reports that he was hidden from the Red Cross during their visits to the detention centre. In January 2004, he was returned to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantánamo reportedly either in May or September 2004. He remains in Guantánamo.

The Amnesty International report shows that once "confessions" are obtained under torture, cases go before Jordan’s notoriously unfair State Security Court (SSC), where judgements are regularly based on little more than "confessions". During the last ten years, over 100 defendants have alleged at SSC sessions that they were tortured into "confessing". The SSC has failed to adequately investigate any of these claims. Disturbingly, the SSC has even imposed death sentences in a number of these cases - some of which have already been carried out.

Despite Jordan's record on torture, last August the UK signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the Jordanian authorities in a supposed attempt to provide "diplomatic assurances" that anyone of Jordanian nationality forcibly removed by the UK to Jordan would not be tortured on return.

Amnesty International’s report repeats the organisation’s longstanding condemnation of such "diplomatic assurances" as bogus protections, not least in light of Jordan’s torture record. The report calls for the "memorandum of understanding" to be cancelled, while Jordan is urged to end all assistance with “renditions” and to make public the names and detentions details of all individuals previously “rendered” by the CIA or other intelligence services.

The report also calls for reform of the GID, including that it not have the power both to detain and interrogate suspects, and that detention centres are inspected by officials other than from the GID.

Read a copy of the latest Jordan report "Your confessions are ready for you to sign"

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