Sources close to the report claim Djibouti along with several other African nations are listed as hosting “black site” facilities that were alleged to hold illegal CIA detainees.
LOS ANGELES — A still-classified U.S. Senate report may provide a timely boost for the human rights case of a Yemeni national who claims he was imprisoned and tortured in Djibouti more than 10 years ago as part of the CIA’s secret rendition program.
The Senate has been investigating the program, which, according to Mohammed al-Asad, was responsible for flying him blindfolded from Tanzania to Djibouti in December 2003 and detaining him there for about two weeks. He filed a complaint against the Horn of Africa nation in 2009 with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Djibouti has denied hosting “black site” facilities where detainees were allegedly held on behalf of the CIA.
But Al Jazeera America reported last week that two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the Senate report said it found that several detainees had been held in Djibouti, and that at least two of them had been wrongfully detained.
The officials were unaware of whether al-Asad’s case was specifically cited in the document.
The African Commission, which is based in Gambia, is expected to decide in the near future whether it will take up al-Asad’s case against Djibouti — the first to be filed with the commission over rendition in Africa. It had taken preliminary steps to accept the case in 2010.
A United Nations report in 2010 found that “the consistency of many of the detailed allegations provided separately by detainees adds weight to the inclusion of Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Djibouti as proxy detention facilities where detainees have been held on behalf of the CIA.”
Al-Asad had been living in Tanzania for about 18 years when, according to his complaint, he was bundled onto a Tanzanair flight to Djibouti. At the detention facility, he was allegedly kept in an isolation cell and interrogated by a woman who identified herself as American and focused on “terrorism-related allegations.”
After about two weeks of detention, the complaint says, al-Asad was taken to an airport where a rendition team of five or more individuals wearing balaclavas, stripped and assaulted him before chaining, hooding, and forcing him onto a small airplane that transported him to Afghanistan. Over the next 16 months, he was allegedly held in three secret U.S.-run prisons, finally being returned to Yemen in May 2005.
The African Commission complaint was filed on al-Asad’s behalf by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, which has described Djibouti as “the doorway for the U.S. secret detention and rendition program in Africa.”
Djibouti’s ambassador to the U.S., Roble Olhaye, told Al Jazeera that al-Asad was a “liar,” adding, “Everything about his case relies on hearsay and conjecture. There were no flights that came to Djibouti on that day he said he was brought to my country from Tanzania.”
Al-Asad’s lawyers say they have obtained documents from Tanzanian immigration officials showing he was sent to Djibouti on a Tanzanair aircraft.
“This is one of the most direct pieces of evidence we have showing that Djibouti is where our client was held,” Margaret Satterthwaite of the NYU School of Law told Al Jazeera.