Torture, Rendition, and Detention

Since the onset of the so-called “War on Terror,” the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and the Global Justice Clinic have engaged in cutting-edge legal analysis on the practices of extraordinary rendition, disappearances, proxy detention, and detainee abuse as violations of domestic, regional, and international law.

Justice, Accountability, and Reparations

CHRGJ and the Clinic have worked closely with human rights organizations, litigators, regional groups, parliamentary bodies, and other actors to end abuses by the United States and collaborating countries, including by exploring avenues for justice for two former “black site” detainees represented by the Clinic, Mohammed al-Asad and Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah.

Those efforts have involved:

Global Justice Clinic client Mohamed Bashmilah (Salon, December 14, 2007)
Global Justice Clinic client Mohamed Bashmilah (Salon, December 14, 2007)

Extraordinary Rendition

The Clinic and the Center have been pioneers in exposing the illegality of extraordinary rendition, the transfer of individuals to a country where they face a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The Clinic has played a key role in defining extraordinary rendition, publishing the first, widely cited analysis of the practice under human rights and humanitarian law in 2004.  The Clinic also engaged in collaborative efforts to identify national security-related “disappeared” persons and to pursue remedies for persons held in “black sites.”

The Clinic’s work has helped to expose the role of other states in this global network of extraordinary rendition, demonstrating how those states’ facilitation of extraordinary renditions and disappearances violates international law. To that end, the Clinic has actively supported investigations into foreign state assistance for the US torture program.

Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project

During the early years of the Bush Administration, the Clinic and other CHRGJ research staff worked on the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project with partner organizations Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch. The project documented credible allegations of torture and abuse in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo, and tracked accountability for those abuses.

Freedom of Information Act Litigation

The Clinic has also used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to challenge the US government’s secrecy around its national security and counter-terrorism programs. In 2007, the Clinic partnered with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International USA to sue the US government for failing to produce documents about the secret detention and rendition program, including records related to:

  • Secret detention and transfer of detainees held either in so-called “black site” detention facilities or eventually transferred to Guantánamo Bay
  • Policies and procedures utilized for such programs
  • Identities of individuals detained or transferred and the locations of their detention or transfer
  • Activities of private contractors and non-governmental actors
  • Details on the injuries and treatment of individuals detained or transferred

Additional information about the pioneering FOIA lawsuit, Amnesty, et al., v . CIA, et al., including a list of released documents, can be found here.

Proxy Detention

With the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the Clinic’s work has expanded to include inquiry into proxy detention, the imprisonment of individuals by allied governments or forces at the behest of, or with the collaboration of the United States for the purpose of interrogation or incapacitation. In many cases, proxy detention takes place in secret and amounts to an enforced disappearance, and it is frequently accompanied by torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Hearing and Briefing Documents
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Thematic Hearing on the Human Rights Situation of Persons Affected by the US Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program

United Nations

2015 Universal Periodic Review of the United States

Selected Articles and Commentary


For a more complete archive of documents and news relating to the Global Justice Clinic’s work on rendition, secret prisons, torture, and proxy detention, visit the Center’s searchable Document Center and News Archive.

Recent News
February 16, 2018
GJC Files Victim Statement Calling on International Criminal Court to Hold Perpetrators of CIA Torture Program Accountable
View Post
November 2, 2015
Regional and Global Perspectives on Impunity for CIA Torture and the Right to Remedies and Reparation
View Post
October 23, 2015
GJC and ACLU release documents on the Human Rights Situation of People Affected by the United States’ Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program
View Post
Related Events
October 16, 2017
Transnational Injustices: Renditions, Expulsions, and Abductions of Persons Suspected of Terrorism
View Event
February 24, 2017
Human Rights and the “War on Terror”: Holding the United States Accountable in Foreign Jurisdictions
View Event

Related Pages

Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project
FOIA Litigation
National Security, Counterterrorism, and Human Rights
Stay Connected