‘SADC states helped CIA renditions’
Harare – Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allegedly involved in the illegal rendition of people the American CIA suspected of being involved in terrorism following the September 11, 2001, attacks that have been linked to al-Qaeda.
These allegations are contained in a 216-page report titled “Globalising Torture” recently released by the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Efforts to get comment from officials from the fingered countries were futile at the time of writing, with two government officials in Zimbabwe and South Africa saying they knew nothing about the allegations.
It has long been reported that the CIA, America’s foreign intelligence service, runs an extra-judicial programme in which it takes terror suspects to other countries where they are tortured.
The programme has been described as “outsourcing torture”.
The idea is that if suspects are tortured in other countries then no American laws will have been violated. It is believed that foreign governments co-operate with the US State Department, Pentagon and CIA in extraordinary renditions to please Washington or on a “favour-for-a-favour basis”.
The report documents the cases of 136 people who have undergone this extraordinary rendition, saying 54 countries have been involved since 2001.
While North African countries, in addition to European, Asian and Australian ones, have in the past been named for being complicit in the condemned practice of extraordinary rendition, Southern Africa had never been mentioned.
Lead author of the report, Amrit Singh, says, “By engaging in torture and other abuses associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, the US government violated domestic and international law, thereby diminishing its moral standing and eroding support for its counterterrorism efforts worldwide as these abuses came to light…
“The moral cost of these programmes was borne not just by the US but by the 54 other countries it recruited to help.”
The report goes on to say: “There is no doubt that high-ranking (George W) Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern.
“But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable.”
Of the countries alleged to be involved in the extraordinary renditions, 25 are in Europe, 14 in Asia and 13 in Africa. The other two are Australia and Canada.
The report notes that “Malawi has been involved in the capture, detention, abuse, and transfer of individuals subjected to extraordinary rendition”.
Algerian citizen Laid Saidi was arrested in May 2003 by Tanzanian police on the strength of information supplied by the CIA and jailed in Dar es Salaam for three days. Thereafter, he was handed over to Malawi authorities who were accompanied by what are believed to be two CIA operatives.
The report says he was held – naked, blindfolded and in solitary confinement ‑ for a week. According to his testimony in the report, a plug was inserted in his anus; he was made to wear a diaper and then dressed up before being flown to Afghanistan in handcuffs and manacles.
It is also alleged that five other terror suspects were arrested in Malawi on June 22, 2003 in a joint CIA-Malawi National Intelligence Bureau operation.
These suspects, it is alleged, were flown to Harare and held in Zimbabwe for about a month before they were transferred to Sudan where investigations revealed they had no links to al-Qaeda.
In March 2003, it is alleged, South African authorities gave the CIA the go ahead to pursue and arrest terror suspect Saud Memon and hand him over to Pakistani agents. In another case, in 2005, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs admitted to transferring Khalid Rashid to “Pakistani authorities who travelled to South Africa to receive him”, but it is not clear if the CIA was involved in this instance.
South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal in 2009 found that Rashid’s detention and deportation to Pakistan were unlawful.
An official with Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Ministry told The Southern Times: “We know nothing about that.” Another official with South Africa’s Home Affairs Department said, “The courts handled the Rashid case. Beyond that, we are not aware of any South African complicity with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme.”
While there has been much pressure for the US to come clean on its activities in this regard, it remains unlikely that America’s intelligence and defence communities will even scale down such operations seeing as their theatre of operations have been expanding in recent years.
Apart from military engagements – both overt and covert – in the Middle East, America’s security apparatus is increasingly turning its eye on Africa, moving from the North of the continent through Libya, to the West where Boko Haram is the causus belli for involvement in Nigeria, through to the East via the Horn of Africa, and down into Central and Southern Africa through the DRC.
The report says, “Despite the efforts of the United States and its partner governments to withhold the truth about past and ongoing abuses, information relating to these abuses will continue to find its way into the public domain.
“At the same time, while US courts have closed their doors to victims of secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, legal challenges to foreign government participation in these operations are being heard in courts around the world.”
The full report can be found at www.osisa.org/sites/default/files/globalizing-torture-20120205.pdf