Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Illegal Renditions and Improper Treatment: An Obligation to Provide Refugee Remedies Pursuant to the Convention against Torture

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Illegal Renditions and Improper Treatment: An Obligation to Provide Refugee Remedies Pursuant to the Convention against Torture

Article excerpt


The state of International Law has been significantly influenced in recent years by the terrorist attacks which took place on United States soil on September 11, 2001. Since that time, in an effort to combat terrorism, the United States has engaged in a number of questionable practices in relation to the treatment of suspected terrorists. Specifically, suspected terrorists are rendered to third countries where they are subject to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT).

Not only are these acts prima facie violations of international law to which the United States has obligated itself, but they disrupt the lives of innocent civilians who are unlawfully detained and improperly interrogated. Often times those accused of acts of terrorism are denied re-entry into their home countries because they are stigmatized as terrorists or are denied refugee status in the United States due to stringent application of these international conventions which seek to protect individuals from torture and CIDT. The conventions to which the United States has bound itself which are applicable in this context include the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) (1), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (2), and the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) (3). Instead of adhering to its obligations pursuant to these conventions, the United States application of these obligations has the effect of subjecting individuals to indefinite and improper detention within the United States or leading to the removal of individuals to countries where they are subject to torture and CIDT.

Thus, this paper seeks to explore the manner in which the United States has interpreted and applied international law when it renders persons to countries where they will be tortured and subject to CIDT and evaluates the legal obligations that the United States has under international law--whether or not those persons are considered terrorists. As all other countries which are signatories to international human rights conventions and which are bound to comply with customary international law, the United States must too adhere to extraterritorial application of international obligations and provide proper remedy to those likely to be subject to improper treatment under all circumstances.


A. Rendition, Extradition, and "'Extraordinary" Rendition

Notions of rendition and extradition are not new to international discourse and international law jurisprudence. Renditions occur when persons are abducted from their home countries without administrative process. (4) Such renditions may be found to be in and of themselves violations of international law norms because they constitute violations of state sovereignty. (5) Extraditions generally take place between two countries that have an extradition treaty and occur when one country requests that its citizen who is residing in another country be returned for criminal prosecution. (6)

In recent years, international law scholars have also been confronted with the notion of "extraordinary rendition" which does not have a definition under international law. (7) The term extraordinary rendition is generally used to refer to the situation where a person is taken to a third country in a manner such that he or she does not know where he or she is and is subject to torture or CIDT. (8) These individuals are transferred before they enter United States borders to negate any constitutional protections they might have received had they been transferred directly from U.S. soil. (9) These acts have caused controversy over whether or not the United States, as a party to the CAT, violates principles of non-refoulement, or improper return, by engaging in these practices. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.