The world saw a shift in the policy of the major players, especially the US, to curtail terrorism after 9/11. The paranoia of the US regarding the so-called terrorists is reflected in this new policy, an important aspect of which is the concept of 'extraordinary renditions. The term 'extraordinary renditions refers to the extrajudicial or unlawful transfer of suspected persons to different jurisdictions to be arrested, detained and interrogated. Although the concept of renditions is not a new phenomenon, what is different about extraordinary renditions is the role of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading (CID) treatment involved in such transfers. The purpose of this programme was to arrest individuals who were either involved in or planning to carry out any terrorist activity. Consequently, ever since the inception of the programme in the 1990s the US has been involved in such practices and, not surprisingly, has been able to bypass the international laws applicable to such situations. This article will focus on extraordinary renditions by the US in the light of the violations of international law. Legally speaking, it is best to begin with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Both the CAT and the US domestic legislation place a prohibition on the use of torture (which is defined in Article 1 as severe pain or suffering.intentionally inflicted on a person) and in this respect, impose legal restrictions on the transfer of persons to jurisdictions where there is likelihood that they will be tortured. Article 3 of CAT provides that no state party shall expel or return or extradite any person to another state where he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. The US has ratified the convention on the understanding that this requirement refers to situations where it would be more likely than not that he will be tortured. An unfortunate result of this is that the rendition of persons becomes easier, especially since people would have to prove that there is a clear probability of torture if transferred to different jurisdictions instead of just a reasonable fear of torture which ostensibly amounts to a lower standard of proof. Similarly, Article 4 of CAT requires state parties to criminalise any act that involves torture. Apart from CAT, the Geneva Conventions (GC) of 1949 also limits the use of such procedures. In this respect, the third (Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners) and the fourth (Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War) GCs are important as both prohibit torture, inhumane or degrading treatment. This is enunciated in Articles 3, 17, 87 and 130 of the third and Articles 3, 32 and 147 of the fourth GC, respectively. An important aspect of the Geneva Conventions is Article 3 which is common to all four conventions. Article 3 discusses situations of armed conflicts that are not of an international character and consequently obligates parties to accord de minimis protection to persons taking no part in active combat. In the 2006 case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld the Supreme Court of the US held that the application of the common Article (CA) 3 extended to Al-Qaeda members and afforded them certain protections, despite the fact that they were not 'lawful combatants; a category that has been covered separately in the conventions. Relevant to this discussion is the fact that CA 3 does not expressly prohibit such transfers. However, there is divided opinion on this matter. Some have argued that transfers carried out to facilitate a persons torture or mistreatments are prohibited by the convention; others tend to disagree. It is still unclear as to whether all renditions are covered including those where the rendering state has not requested the torture or cruel treatment of the person. In the light of the law in the US, the CA 3 has been understood to exclude renditions, as mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The US feels that it only has to comply with Article 3 of CAT with regard to renditions. Nevertheless, the US personnel can be brought to justice under the US War Crimes Act (1996). This particular act, in relation to renditions, imposes penalties on any person who aids or abets any person involved in the commission of offences relating to torture irrespective of whether the victim is in the offenders custody or control. The prerequisite of control and custody applies otherwise. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also prohibits parties from subjecting persons to torture or CID treatment in Article 7. Once again, the US has ratified the convention on the condition that it complies with its domestic law which makes it easier to provide a justification for carrying out renditions. Moreover, Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is also relevant to this discussion since it prohibits the arbitrary arrest, detention or exile of persons. Although the UDHR is not a treaty and as such not legally binding, it lists down those rights that cannot be violated and hence, places a heavy obligation on states, one that cannot be ignored. As apparent from the above discussion, the US has managed to sidestep every possible law that applies to such situations. Despite the establishment of task forces to deal with the situation at hand, the picture before us appears to be bleak. It is time for the international community to take strong measures to restore the true nature of the 'prohibition on torture as jus cogens (a norm from which no derogation is ever permitted). The writer is a research associate at the Research Society of International law (RSIL) Pakistan. Email: