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Perpetual Impunity: Lessons learned from the global system of rendition and secret detention

Blakeley, Ruth, Rapahel, Sam (2014) Perpetual Impunity: Lessons learned from the global system of rendition and secret detention. In: British International Studies Association Annual Conference, 18-20 June 2014, Dublin. (KAR id:42793)


It is now well documented that the Blair government was colluding at the highest levels in the global system for the rendition, detention and interrogation of terror suspects, at the same time as repeatedly denying any involvement. This paper seeks to explain why the UK so confidently maintained its position of denial. The main argument is that involvement in the global rendition system was facilitated and protected by an architecture of impunity. That is to say that the global rendition system deliberately consisted of a set of practices that were designed to ensure impunity for those agents involved at various levels, particularly Western governments and their intelligence agencies. Furthermore, if aspects of a state’s involvement were exposed, the architecture of impunity was sufficiently robust that the state could control the level of exposure. For example, the state could allow the light to be shone on certain aspects but could keep others very much in the dark. The state could also take specific actions to mitigate the effects, for example by withholding key information, destroying evidence, or by deflecting attention. Finally, where state involvement was exposed, again because the architecture of impunity was so robust, the authorities were in a strong position to seriously hamstring or avert investigations into wrongdoing. We conclude by offering some reflections on what this tells us about the challenges of holding governments to account for human rights violations of this nature, especially where they arise through a transnational network of state violence/crime.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Projects: The Globalisation of Rendition and Secret Detention
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (
Depositing User: Ruth Blakeley
Date Deposited: 01 Sep 2014 10:16 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Blakeley, Ruth.

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