by Nathan Hamm on 5/4/2005

As one might expect, this post inspired a discussion of the propriety of the practice of the US turning prisoners over to another country for detention and interrogation. At issue in the previous post was this weekend’s NYT story on renditions to Uzbekistan. The story is full of gaps. These gaps probably cannot be filled, but it’s worth acknowledging they are there. And since people are taking leaps on this story (including the big one I’ve seen some lefty pundits make that the US is turning over people from all over the globe to Uzbekistan) and making all manner of assumptions–some reasonable, some not.

Of specific interest to me is this question:

If a low-ranking Taliban of IMU soldier is captured in Afghanistan, is from Uzbekistan, and is wanted by the Uzbek government, what kind of responsibilities does the US have to hold that prisoner?

In response, Sean-Paul of The Agonist has some proposed criteria for prisoner transfers.

I don’t think his criteria are at all unreasonable.

At the same time, cold-hearted bastard that I am, I have to wonder if the scale of the problem calls for some kind of formal mechanism. That there is so much secrecy surrounding the issue though means it is exceedingly difficult to come up with a sound policy that speaks to deficiencies. For the sake of political expediency, I am all in favor of turning over prisoners of no national security value to us if they are wanted by another country (if they aren’t POWs–very strictly defined–that is). Assurances that they won’t be tortured will often be nothing more than mere words, especially in a place like Uzbekistan where a genuine, well-intentioned promise from one official may be unknown to or ignored by the jailer.

But hey, I could be wrong. I have a tendency to ignore stories that require a lot of gap-filling on the part of reporters and pundits.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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