Black site

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A black site is any site that houses a secret government black project. The best known type of black site (aside from Area 51) is the black prison, for the extralegal (illegal) detention of prisoners. American president George W. Bush first admitted to the existence of secret prisons on September 6th 2006.[1] A notable example would be the Dark Prison near Kabul, Afghanistan where prisoners are kept in complete darkness for weeks on end.[2]

Black jails are a larger phenomenon in China, where they are used mainly to detain, without trial, petitioners (上访者, shangfangzhe), who travel to seek redress for grievances unresolved at the local level. Black jails have no official or legal status, differentiating them from detention centers, the criminal arrest process, or formal sentencing to jail or labor camps. They are in wide use in Beijing, in particular, and serve as holding locations for the many petitioners who travel to the central Office of Letters and Calls to petition.[3] The system includes so-called "interceptors" or "black guards", sent by local or regional authorities, who abduct petitioners and hold them against their will or bundle them onto a bus to send them back to where they came from. Non-government sources have estimated the number of black jails in operation to be between 7 and 50. The facilities may be located in state-owned hotels, hostels, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, residential buildings, or government ministry buildings, effectively anywhere additional construction would not be called into question.[4]

According to reporters visiting the jails, those detained inside them are beaten, starved, and sometimes hosed down with water.[5] 20 or 30 people may be forced to inhabit a single room, including those suffering from disabilities. Many are deprived of food, sleep, and medical care, and are subject to theft and extortion by their guards. They have no access to family members or to legal counsel or courts. Thousands of people are abducted off the streets of Chinese cities and held incommunicado for weeks or months in these conditions.

In June 2009, the Chinese government asserted in the Outcome Report of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review of China's human rights record that "There are no black jails in the country."[6] Paradoxically, although the guards do not officially exist, there is nevertheless an official court case of a guard being sentenced for raping a detainee.[7] The Chinese government is also noted to have allegedly reformed these purportedly nonexistent prisons after the low-budget guards at one such site in Guangzhou beat to death an inmate by the name of Sun Zhigang (孙志刚) who had been black-bagged for illegally moving there from Wuhan looking for work.[8]

Black jails may contain ghost detainees, a person held in a detention center, whose identity has been hidden by keeping them unregistered and therefore anonymous.[9] One 2005 report by Amnesty International indicates that more than 100 ghost detainees may currently be being held in U.S.-operated black sites.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. "Bush: Top terror suspects to face tribunals". CNN / AP. 2006-09-06. Archived from the original on September 6, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-06.
  2. U.S. Operated Secret ‘Dark Prison’ in Kabul (Human Rights Watch, 19-12-2005)
  3. "'Black Jail' Plea from Hospital". Radio Free Asia. 20 November 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
  4. Human Rights Watch, "An Alleyway in Hell", 12 November 2009
  5. Hartley, Aidan. "The terrible secrets of Beijing’s "black jails"" The Spectator. 13 October 2007
  6. Human Rights Watch, "China: Secret “Black Jails” Hide Severe Rights Abuses", 12 November 2009
  7. China Daily. 'Black jails' investigated for illegally holding petitioners
  8. See the Wikipedia article on Sun Zhigang incident.
  9. The "Taguba Report" On Treatment Of Abu Ghraib Prisoners In Iraq: ARTICLE 15-6 INVESTIGATION OF THE 800th MILITARY POLICE BRIGADE, May 2004, Findlaw
  10. Amnesty International Report 2005, Irene Khan, Speech at Foreign Press Association, Amnesty International, 25 May 2005