WASHINGTON: A Yemeni alleges he was arrested by the CIA in Tanzania in 2003, flown to Djibouti to be tortured for two weeks, and left languishing for years in secret prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Mohammed al-Asad, 51, had been living since 1985 with his family in Tanzania when he was arrested and put on a plane to an unidentified country later found to be Djibouti, the complaint says.
The suit was lodged with the Gambia-based African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights back in December 2009 but only made public on Monday by US rights groups.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff spent two weeks in solitary confinement in Djibouti, a tiny US ally in the Horn of Africa that borders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Asad says he was stripped, poked in the rectum, photographed nude and blindfolded, while being repeatedly interrogated by a woman who said she was American and a male Djibouti national.
The plaintiff learned he was suspected of providing material support to the Muslim charity al-Haramain, which the United States put on a list of sponsors of terror in January 2004.
Later he was taken by plane to another prison, according to the complaint, before being “held incommunicado in three secret US-run prisons around the world.” Asad’s family were not informed of where he was detained.
Asad was eventually sent to Yemen in May 2005 and finally left prison a year later — he was never prosecuted for anything related to terrorism.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has jurisdiction over countries, like Djibouti, that have ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, must now decide whether to take the complaint.
“This case is the first filed before the African Commission on rendition in Africa, but it is far from an isolated case,” said Solomon Sacco, an INTERIGHTS lawyer working on the case.
“Evidence continues to emerge of a systematic global practice of rendition,” said Sacco. It “is part of a growing demand for recognition and justice for victims of rendition that will not go away.”
Rendition flights, whereby suspects were transferred covertly to a third country or to US-run detention centres, started after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Among those transported to secret interrogation facilities and tortured was Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks who is now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba awaiting trial.
President Barack Obama has pursued a reform of major counterterrorism policies, including a more restricted CIA rendition program, but has still fought rendition cases on the basis that state secrets must be safeguarded.