June 7, 2006

South Africa in court over Pakistani’s “rendition”

By Andrew Quinn

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Deported on a chartered plane and
never heard from again.

Khaled Rashid's lawyers say his story mirrors that of other
suspects believed to have disappeared into secret prisons as
part of Washington's "war on terrorism."

But Rashid vanished in South Africa, where the
post-apartheid constitution provides some of the world's
strongest human rights guarantees and officials deny that there
was anything irregular about his case.

Now Rashid's lawyers have taken the government to court to
find out what happened to him, and whether South Africa is
cooperating with foreign security agencies in the "rendition,"
or kidnapping, of terror suspects for interrogation.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt this was a case of rendition,"
said Zahir Omar, one of the Rashid's family lawyers.

"Here is a man who was kidnapped, sent to a military base
and whisked away to who knows where. This is not the kind of
thing that happens in a democracy."

The Pretoria High Court this week forced South Africa's
Ministry of Home Affairs to divulge more about what happened to
Rashid following his arrest as an illegal alien in November.

But the answers have been patchy -- spurring Omar to ask
the court to order the ministers of home affairs, security and
intelligence to answer direct questions on what happened to the
former supermarket worker.


The Rashid case comes as a European watchdog on Wednesday
released a report saying that 14 European countries colluded
with a "spider's web" of secret prisons and prisoner transfers
run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The report, by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of
Europe, said both eastern and western European countries played
active or passive roles in the "rendition" program.

Washington says it acts with the knowledge of governments
concerned and acknowledges the secret transfer of some
terrorist suspects between countries, although it denies any

South Africa has not been formally implicated in the
program, but Rashid's lawyers say they believe it, too, is
cooperating with Washington.

Home Affairs officials said Rashid, who is about 34,
departed in an aircraft chartered by police on November 6. The
aircraft, registered in the United Arab Emirates, left from
Pretoria's Waterkloof airforce base and the ministry said it
had no details on where it eventually landed.

Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman Nkosana Sibuyi said
there was nothing irregular about Rashid's deportation, and
that as far as the ministry was concerned he was back in

"We deport close to 10,000 people per annum and they are
deported from different areas. There is nothing strange about
this," he said, adding the ministry had provided information on
the flight, as well as the Pakistani officials who were due to
receive Rashid.

Rudolph Jansen, national director for Lawyers for Human
Rights, said the government's response in the Rashid case
showed it was not a "bona fide deportation."

"In the world that we live in today it should not be
difficult for any government to show where they put people, in
South Africa or in Pakistan or wherever," Jansen said.

"The fact that they are skirting the very obvious issue of
where this guy makes one feel extremely uncomfortable."