The ‘War on Terror’ and its impact on human rights

The story of Extraordinary Renditions is an important piece of contemporary history, raising complex political and moral questions. Since the early 1990s and especially after the dramatic attack on New York on September 11th 2001, the United States and its western allies have considered themselves to be fighting a ‘War on Terror against jihadist terror groups. In fighting this war, security services in the West have resorted to new and controversial measures, often going outside normal judicial procedures. These measures have often been shrouded in secrecy.
The process known as extraordinary rendition has been at the centre of this secret intelligence war. Some hundreds of terror suspects have been captured who cannot be prosecuted through the courts because the evidence against them comes from secret sources. ‘Rendition’ was chosen as a way of holding and interrogating such suspects, who were moved around by secret flights to secret locations in many different countries, treated as prisoners but not able to defend themselves by the usual legal means. When renditions became public knowledge, serious concerns were raised about civil liberties and possible abuse of state power.