The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terror suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but will monitor their treatment to insure they are not tortured, administration officials said on Monday.
The administration officials, who announced the changes on condition that they not be identified, said that unlike the Bush administration, they would give the State Department a larger role in assuring that transferred detainees would not be abused.
“The emphasis will be on insuring that individuals will not face torture if they are sent over overseas,” said one administration official, adding that no detainees will be sent to countries that are known to conduct abusive interrogations.
But human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying it would permit the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture and that promises of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective in preventing torture,” said Amrit Singh of the American Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush.
She cited the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian sent in 2002 by the United States to Syria, which offered assurances against torture but beat Mr. Arar with electrical cable anyway.
The Obama task force proposed improved monitoring of treatment of prisoners sent to other countries, but Ms. Singh said the usual method of such monitoring — visits from American or allied consular officials — had also been ineffective. A Canadian consular official visited Mr. Arar several times, but the prisoner was too frightened to tell him about the torture, according to a Canadian investigation of the case.