Groundbreaking Rendition Case to be Heard by African Commission 01 Nov 2013

Human rights organisations confront Djibouti’s role in the C.I.A. programme

(BANJUL Nov. 1, 2013)—The Global Justice Clinic ( and the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (INTERIGHTS, will present evidence tomorrow to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, revealing Djibouti’s active role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition and secret detention programme. Mohammed al-Asad, represented by the two organisations, was secretly detained, tortured and interrogated in Djibouti for several weeks in 2003 and 2004 before being forcibly transferred to a C.I.A. “black site.”

Tomorrow’s hearing is the first time that the African Commission will hear arguments on a case involving extraordinary rendition and secret detention carried out by an African country. It presents a historic and unprecedented opportunity for the Commission to hold African perpetrators of human rights violations accountable for their role in the programme, thought to be active from 2002-2006.  

In December 2003, Mohammed al-Asad was abducted from his family home in Tanzania and taken to a secret detention site in Djibouti where he was placed in isolation in a filthy cell, interrogated, and subjected to cruel treatment. He was deprived of all contact with the outside world and was not able to contact a lawyer, his family, or the International Committee of the Red Cross. After two weeks, Djibouti handed Mr al-Asad to C.I.A. agents who assaulted him, stripped him naked, photographed him, then dressed him in a diaper, and strapped him to the floor of a C.I.A. transport plane. He endured 16 months of secret detention before he was transferred to Yemen and eventually released without ever being charged with a terrorism-related crime.

“I try hard to forget,” said Mohammed al-Asad, “but this injustice lasts forever. It has destroyed my business and traumatised me and my family. I am hopeful that I will get justice from the African Commission.”

Judy Oder, Lawyer at INTERIGHTS, commented: “The extraordinary rendition programme was designed to deny detainees all avenues to justice. Mr Al-Asad’s experience was sadly not an isolated instance: over the past decade we have seen a wave of such cases across Africa. By allowing Mr Al-Asad’s case to proceed, the Commission would open an alternative path of justice to victims of the rendition programme and help to ensure that those African states which participate in secretive unlawful transfers are held to account.” 

“For Mr. al-Asad, Djibouti was the gateway into the depths of the extraordinary rendition and secret detention system. All eyes are now on the African Commission, which will decide whether Mr. al-Asad’s case will go forward,” said NYU Law Professor Margaret Satterthwaite. “We are hopeful that the Commission will find in our client’s favor, and ten years after his abduction, Mohammed al-Asad will finally have his opportunity to obtain justice.”

International rendition programme

The rendition programme was executed through a web of international actors who unlawfully detained and interrogated suspects with the aim of gathering actionable intelligence. The programme relied on at least 50 countries, including Djibouti, to carry out clandestine activities in their territories with no accountability. 

Djibouti has failed to take action on Mr. al-Asad’s claims of torture and secret detention in Djibouti or to provide him and his family with redress. In similar cases elsewhere, courts have begun to hold countries responsible for their role in executing and facilitating the rendition programme. As part of its security and rule of law programme, together with partners, INTERIGHTS is pursuing cases on behalf of other victims of extraordinary rendition. It submitted a third party intervention before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of El-Masri v Macedonia, in which the Court recently found Macedonia accountable for its role in the rendition of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped and interrogated in Macedonia before being transferred to a C.I.A. site in Afghanistan, where he was secretly detained and tortured. Mr El-Masri suffered abusive and degrading treatment similar to that experienced by Mr al-Asad, which the Court held constituted torture, for which Macedonia was responsible. 

Human Rights Watch investigator John Sifton, a leading expert on extraordinary rendition, will testify at the Commission to expose evidence about Djibouti’s role in the programme. 


Follow us at: @nyu_gjc, @interights 

For documents related to the lawsuit, please see:

To read Mr. al-Asad declaration, see:

About NYU’s Global Justice Clinic

The Global Justice Clinic provides high quality, professional human rights lawyering services to individual clients and non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, partnering with groups based in the United States and abroad, or undertaking its own projects. Serving as legal advisers, counsel, co-counsel, or advocacy partners, Clinic students work side-by-side with human rights activists from around the world. The Clinic is known for its cutting edge legal action and analysis on human rights and national security, including extraordinary rendition and detainee abuse. Experts will be available to comment on this case following the hearing. 


Established in 1982, INTERIGHTS is an international legal human rights NGO based in London. INTERIGHTS works to ensure that human rights standards are protected and promoted effectively in domestic courts and before regional and international bodies, contributing to the development of a cumulative and progressive interpretation of international human rights law. INTERIGHTS brings impact litigation before international human rights bodies on some of the most egregious human rights violations, such as torture, violations of the right to life, ‘extraordinary rendition’, arbitrary detention and transfer, slavery and trafficking. 


Greg McEwan: +44 7824 332 484 /