March 19, 2005

When is a Rendition, Not a Rendition?

A man (Ahmed Abu Ali) is arrested in Saudi Arabia for a bombing that occurs in Riyadh. The US lets the Saudi government keep him, monitoring his interrogation sessions and participating in some questioning. He's held for 20 months in Saudi Arabia before being turned over to the US and the man's family sues, calling his detention "extraordinary rendition" and illegal under US law. This assertion is breathlessly swallowed by The New Republic as if a 20 month detention without trial is something that is a sign of 3rd world justice. It isn't.

A man is arrested in Spain can be held without trial for up to two years merely on the government's say so. If a judge concurs, the pre-trial detention can be extended to 4 years as prosecutors continue to build their case. The US State Department puts it like this

At times pretrial detention was lengthy. Under the law, suspects cannot be detained for more than 2 years before being brought to trial unless a judge, who may extend pretrial detention to 4 years, authorizes a further delay. In practice, pretrial detention usually was less than 1 year.

There are other EU countries with lengthy pre-trial detention policies. Belgium for instance doesn't seem to have a set limit, just monthly judicial review and pretrial detainees are not kept separated from convicted criminals. Italy permits 24 month detentions and follows Belgium's practice of mixing convicts with pretrial detainees.

While none of these EU states has credible allegations of torture against them, the detention challenge seems to be, at least in part, about the length of detention without charges being filed. Calling a foreign arrest of a US citizen extraordinary rendition when the US does not submit the paperwork to extradite them back to the US seems a bizarre legal theory but that's what the left is working with.

The next time you hear about "extraordinary rendition" don't swallow it uncritically. The term is getting an orwellian face lift and that has to be challenged.

Posted by TMLutas at March 19, 2005 10:18 AM