African commission asked to take case challenging CIA rendition program
By Sudarsan Raghavan and Julie Tate
Monday, February 28, 2011; 6
The case involves Mohammed al-Asad, who said he was arrested in late 2003 at his home in
On Monday, American and British human rights lawyers filed legal documents at the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, urging it to require the government of Djibouti to "answer for abuses it committed'' as part of the CIA's secret program. The case made public Monday was filed confidentially in December 2009.
Djibouti's embassy in Nairobi did not answer requests for a response, and a government spokesman in
"It's safe to say - without commenting on this specific matter - that much of what has been alleged about the former CIA detention and interrogation program, which ended over two years ago, is simply incorrect," said CIA spokesman George Little.
The commission, based in the
If the commission accepts the case, it would represent the first international case to inquire into the role of an African country in the
"By serving as the doorway for the U.S. secret detention and rendition program in Africa, Djibouti directly violated the human rights of our client," said Jayne Huckerby, the research director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, based at New York University's School of Law, which along with Interights, a British human rights law organization, filed the case.
In a telephone interview from eastern
When Asad landed in
Asad said one guard told him he was in
Asad said two guards entered his cell two weeks later and blindfolded him and tied his hands together with a piece of cloth. He said he was taken to the airport where his blindfold was ripped off; five black-clad men masked with balaclavas tore off his clothing and photographed him naked before assaulting him. They chained him, placed a hood over his head and forced him onto a small plane, Asad said.
"I am sure there was a powerful authority behind this kind of treatment," Asad said. "It definitely was the
For the next 16 months, he said, he was held in three more CIA prisons in
"I want those who treated me badly to be brought to justice," Asad said. "I lost everything, my business, my life. I want my rights back."
The efforts to bring Asad's case to Africa follow attempts by human rights activists to bring legal actions in
Margaret Satterthwaite, one of Asad's attorneys, said they had not tried to sue the U.S. government, "though this remains an option." She said they filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain documents pertaining to Asad from the CIA and other agencies. But most agencies, she said, responded that they could "neither confirm nor deny" holding records about Asad or denied they had any.
"The reason we have not sued the
The case before the African Commission was filed confidentially in December 2009, as a matter of courtesy to the country against which the proceeding is brought, said Satterthwaite. The body has taken preliminary steps to accept the case but still has not fully committed to proceed forward with actions against
Monday was the first time Asad's case has been made public, a move apparently intended to add pressure on the body to proceed forward.
"We do hope that making the case public will ensure that all parties involved in the case proceed as expeditiously as possible given the seriousness of the injustice Mr. al-Asad has suffered," Satterthwaite said.
John Sifton, a lawyer and private investigator who has worked on cases involving former CIA detainees, said human rights activists first "tried suing the CIA. Then the CIA's subcontractors. In both cases,
"Asad's attorneys are now using an African forum, on the grounds that an African country - Djibouti - was complicit in the CIA's acts,'' Sifton said. "This is a natural legal strategy, given that
If Asad's case is accepted and
"Asad may be able to corroborate the forms of mistreatment and torture that were used on detainees, including ones who are still in custody," Sifton said.
email@example.com Tate reported from
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