September 20, 2011
Groups Seek Somalia Detention Answers from President Obama
Washington, DC – Today, a coalition of 8 leading human rights groups organized by Human Rights First released a letter to President Obama asking for clarification regarding the United States’ role in potentially unlawful detention and interrogation operations in Somalia. Recent news reports have alleged that the CIA and other U.S. agencies and departments have been involved in interrogating detainees held in a prison in Mogadishu that does not meet international standards for humane treatment. “If the United States is directly participating in or supporting the interrogation of detainees held in this Somali prison, it is responsible for ensuring the humane treatment of these detainees,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. The coalition letter points out that under an executive order signed by President Obama, the CIA should not be in charge of detention or interrogation operations. The executive order also required that the detention and interrogation of all terrorism suspects be conducted in accordance with international law. “President Obama shuttered the CIA’s so-called ‘black sites’ to ensure that detainees would not be abused and held incommunicado. The allegations we’re seeing now suggest that the CIA may be supporting detention and interrogation operations in Somalia that are in violation of the laws that the President has sworn to uphold,” Wala added. Recent news reports have also alleged that the United States continues to be involved in renditions – transfers of terrorism suspects to third countries – without ensuring sufficient due process protections. The Obama Administration has yet to articulate a policy to govern such renditions consistent with its international and domestic legal obligations. “Any forcible transfer of a detainee must be accompanied by robust due process protections to ensure that the individual in question is not transferred to a substantial risk of torture or abuse,” said Wala. The coalition letter called on the President to provide additional information on U.S. involvement in detention, interrogation, and transfer operations in Somalia. It also asks for clarification on the steps the United States is taking to ensure humane treatment of detainees held by its Somali counterparts.