"Diplomatic assurances” against torture are not enough

March, 27, 2015 - Today, CCR and other human rights organizations submitted an amicus brief to the Fourth Circuit U.S. Appeals Court in a case concerning the government’s international law obligations to protect people from being deported to a country where they will be tortured (known as non-refoulement obligations). The issue concerns one at the heart of CCR’s work, whether the government can avoid its non-refoulement obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) – prohibiting an otherwise lawful transfer of an individual (in this case, through the removal process) where an individual faces a risk of torture in the home country – by obtaining “diplomatic assurances” from the home country that there will be no torture.  This notion of “diplomatic assurances” was outrageously abused during the Bush Administration in its “extraordinary rendition” program, as if diplomatic assurances from countries we sent detainees to be tortured at our behest could ever be trusted.  Our own CCR client Maher Arar was rendered to Syria in secret, through JFK airport with assurances from Syria – and brutally tortured as a result.  (The court dismissed our suit seeking accountability against US government officials for their role in Maher’s torture-by-proxy). 

While President Obama has reigned in the worst rendition practices of his predecessor, we know that he is still transferring individuals against their will, in violation of CAT, such as our client Djamel Ameziene, who was transferred to Algeria, instead of a safe, European country.  Our amicus brief argues that one can never trust diplomatic assurances from a country that regularly tortures, and that any individual subject to a transfer where torture might occur should, at a minimum, have an opportunity to go to court to challenge the validity of this secret transfer.


Last modified 

March 30, 2015