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U.N. Working Group Tells U.S. to Investigate Rendition Flights

Nahal Zamani,
Human Rights Program
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August 4, 2009

Yesterday, the U.N. Working Group on the use of mercenaries issued a statement of its findings and recommendations following a two-week fact-finding visit to the U.S. at the invitation of the Obama administration. During their visit, the human rights experts met with government officials, organizations like the ACLU, and private military and security companies (PMSCs).

Their visit came at a critical time, amid mounting calls for increased transparency and accountability in regards to the U.S. government’s contracts with private companies. The working group recognized the administration’s recent efforts, but noted that “there is still very little information accessible to the public on the scope and type of contracts” with PMSCs. The working group added:

It is indeed the responsibility of the State to ensure that any contractor to which it outsources its functions, fully respects human rights, and, in cases of violations is prosecuted and held accountable.

When the government’s work is outsourced, human rights violations and other crimes can be inadequately reported, investigated or addressed by the relevant authorities. We see this all too clearly in our pending lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, for its role in the Bush administration’s unlawful “extraordinary rendition” program. We represent five men who were forcibly disappeared, secretly detained and tortured in prisons overseas, charging that Jeppesen knowingly participated in these egregious human rights violations by providing the CIA with flight planning and logistical support for the kidnapping and secret transfer of foreign nationals to places where they were detained, interrogated and tortured.

Yesterday, we filed requests with three other U.N. human rights bodies requesting that they investigate the case of Mustafa Setmarian Nassar, a Spanish citizen of Syrian origin who in 2005 was handed over to U.S. officials by agents of the Pakistani government and has not been heard from since. All evidence points to the fact that Nassar was also a victim of the “extraordinary rendition” program. To this day, the United States government has refused to discuss its involvement in Nassar’s disappearance.

It is particularly important that the working group voiced their concern upon hearing about the use of PMSCs involved in the practice of rendition, recommending that Congress “launch an investigation on the use of PMSCs on rendition flights.” We welcome the working group’s recommendations — and urge the Obama administration to uphold its promise of transparency and accountability.

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