The Human Rights Watch said in a 46-page report the Central Intelligence Agency is holding al-Qaida suspects in "secret locations," reportedly outside the United States, with no notification to their families and no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on the report, the BBC said.
The report named such prisoners as Khalid Shaikh Muhammed, the alleged principal architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; Abu Zubayda, reputedly a close aide to Osama bin Laden; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who but for his failure to get a U.S. visa might have been one of the Sept. 11 hijackers; and Hambali, an alleged key al-Qaida ally in Southeast Asia.
"Those guilty of serious crimes must be brought to justice before fair trials," said Reed Brody, special counsel with Human Rights Watch. "If the United States embraces the torture and 'disappearance' of its opponents, it abandons its ideals and international obligations and becomes a lesser nation."