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rendition also renditioning

noun [uncountable]

the practice of capturing a criminal suspect and handing them over to the authorities of a different country for interrogation or imprisonment


noun [countable]


verb [transitive] [usually passive]

'Human rights groups consider the practice of rendition a run-around to avoid the judicial processes that the United States has long championed …'

CBS News 27th December 2005

'Take the practice, known in the spy trade as renditioning, of nabbing jihadists and, without arresting them, bundling them off to foreign jurisdictions. There, it's hoped, interrogators who don't follow Queensbury rules might uncover enemy plans …'

Investors Business Daily 30th December 2005

'Renditions are broadened not only to bring serious, wanted suspects to justice, but also to capture suspected terrorists before they act.'

San Francisco Chronicle 27th December 2005

'US officials acknowledge that they have "renditioned" suspects to third countries for interrogation.'

Hartford Courant 11th December 2005

In 2005, a new sense of the word rendition was born. In the same year that the media talked about Sir Paul McCartney's rendition of a famous Beatles song at the London Live8 concert, the same word was being used in a serious context which in no way related to the conventional definition of 'a particular performance or interpretation of a piece of music or drama'. In December 2005, the sense of rendition that dominated the media was nothing to do with entertainment, but rather the process of capture and extradition of suspected terrorists.

some 100 to 150 people have been renditioned since 9/11

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in November 2001 President Bush issued a military order which, contrary to national and international law, included the right to indefinitely detain any non-US citizen anywhere in the world. This controversial practice, described as rendition, involves grabbing terrorist suspects in one country and flying them to their home or another country where they are wanted for questioning.

Rendition in this sense occurs as both an uncountable and countable noun, with the uncountable noun referring to the process and the countable form to an instance of it. Renditioning is an alternative process noun. Rendition is also used as a transitive verb, mainly in the passive form as in be/get renditioned (to somewhere), and the form renditioned therefore frequently occurs as a participle adjective. Terrorist suspects who have been renditioned are sometimes described with the attributive adjective rendered, as in rendered suspects were detained at…, and render is sometimes also used as an alternative verb form.

Some 100 to 150 people have been renditioned since 9/11, the CIA claiming that the procedure is restricted to those considered to be the most serious terror suspects. Rendition continues to be a highly controversial practice however, mainly because it allegedly involves the extradition of suspects to countries where torture forms a legal part of interrogation procedures. Opponents often describe the term rendition as a euphemism for torture-by-proxy.

Background – rendition

The word rendition has existed in the English language since the early 17th century. Although dictionaries currently only feature the established sense relating to a musical or theatrical performance, this new sense of rendition in fact relates more directly to the word's origins, since it derives from the French word rendre, meaning 'to give back'.

This article is based on a longer article about rendition and other euphemisms originally published in the October 2005 edition of the free monthly webzine MED Magazine.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 30th January 2006.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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