Diplomatic Assurances FOIA
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking
information about “diplomatic assurances” for individuals transferred by the
United States to countries known to employ torture. “Diplomatic
assurances” are assurances from countries with a known record of torture or
ill-treatment that they will treat prisoners humanely. International law
dictates that countries must not expel, return, or extradite any person to a
country where they risk torture. “Diplomatic assurances” are not formal or
binding and as such are extremely unreliable.
The FOIA requests focus on individuals who were sent to countries following
transfer from the United States and from Guantánamo Bay. The ACLU sued when the
government did not respond to their FOIA request. In November 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic
released documents revealing for the first time details of the U.S.
government’s process for transferring individuals to countries where they face a
significant risk of being tortured. The documents
shed new light on the fundamentally flawed practice of “diplomatic assurances”
or secret promises obtained from foreign governments that they will not torture
the returned individuals.