The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has used private aircraft firms and front companies secretly to transfer terror suspects in violation of international law, Amnesty International charged Wednesday.
Private companies were also exploited by the CIA, said Amnesty
"The CIA has exploited aviation practices that would otherwise require their flights to be declared to aviation authorities," according to a new report by the London-based human rights organization.
Amnesty said the report "exposes a covert operation whereby people have been arrested or abducted, transferred and held in secret or handed over to countries where they have faced torture and other ill-treatment." It described "how the CIA has used private aircraft operators and front companies to preserve the secrecy of 'rendition' flights."
Amnesty said it "has records of nearly 1,000 flights" by planes that appear to have been "permanently operated by the CIA through front companies" and most of which used European airspace. It also said "there are records of some 600 other flights made by planes confirmed as having been used at least temporarily by the CIA."
In explaining how it obtained its information, Amnesty cited interviews with people transferred illegally.
Amnesty: US manipulated commercial arrangements
"One particular aircraft is known to have made over 100 stops in Guantanamo Bay," it said. "Another took (terror suspect) Abu Omar to Egypt from Germany after he was kidnapped in Italy," Amnesty said. "Its owners have admitted leasing the plane to the CIA, but have said it is not used exclusively by the agency," Amnesty said.
Egyptian cleric Abu Omar was allegedly kidnapped by the CIA in Milan in 2003
Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said the reports "shows how the (US) Administration is manipulating commercial arrangements in order to be able to transfer people in violation of international law."
Khan charged that the whole process surrounding the renditions has often been illegal right from the start.
"The report shows not just how arrest and extradition procedures have been ignored, the ban on torture and other ill-treatment has been disregarded, but also how aviation practices have been undermined," Khan said.
Onus on aviation sector
With Amnesty warning that governments may find themselves "complicit in serious human rights abuses," it urged them to take steps to stop and prevent renditions. Governments must insist that any aircraft used for an intelligence mission be declared a "state" flight and prohibit the use of airspace and airports for "renditions" and actively investigate suspected "rendition" cases, it said.
Governments and the aviation sector must take steps to prevent rendition, Amnesty said
It also urged them to disclose "the full extent of these practices and the fate of those whose whereabouts are still unknown."
Amnesty said the aviation sector must also take steps to prevent renditions.
"The onus is on (aviation) companies to ensure that they are aware of the end use of any aircraft they lease or operate and that they do not facilitate human rights violations," Amnesty said.