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Seeking Answers About CIA Operations in Somalia

on September 29, 2011

Recently, The Nation and The New York Times disclosed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may be involved in the transfer of suspected terrorists to Somalia for detention and interrogation, in violation of US and international law.

Of particular concern to PHR are reports that detainees are being held in small, filthy, windowless cells infested with bedbugs and mosquitoes that relentlessly torment detainees. Furthermore, the prison is reportedly underground, resulting in detainees having no time outside. Reports also indicate that many have been there more than a year and are exhibiting signs of mental stress, such as pacing or rocking themselves against the walls continuously.

Finally, detainees may have never been brought before a court nor allowed access to legal representation relating to the lawfulness of their detention. If true, any one of these conditions may violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.    

Because of the gravity of the allegations, PHR, along with a coalition of leading human rights organizations, sent a letter to President Obama seeking clarity as to:

  • whether the US, independently or through contractors, is involved in the detention, interrogation, or interrogation of suspected terrorists at Somalian prisons; 
  • the measures that the US has taken to ensure that it abides by its obligations under US and international law, as well as Executive Order 13491; and
  • whether the International Committee of the Red Cross has been notified of, and been provided access to, detainees held at the Somali prison.

To date, PHR has not received a response from the Administration. PHR urges President Obama to ensure that counterterrorism operations are being conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law.