In this piece, Karen Jayes of CAGE Africa discusses the case of Khalid Rashid. He was arrested in South Africa and renditioned to Pakistan, the reasons for him being targeted are a mystery, but his case highlights another case of British complicity in this instance with South Africa’s old apartheid structures. Jayes highlights the severe impact torture really has on individuals targeted as part of the War on Terror.
Khalid Rashid was kidnapped and renditioned from South Africa in October 2005 to the dungeons of Pakistan, at the behest of British intelligence and under the flimsy disguise of an immigration related deportation. His removal was later deemed unlawful by a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in 2009. Rashid is currently living with his family in Lahore, Pakistan. He won’t speak to the media, and has turned down meetings with his lawyer Zahir Omar.
Rashid won’t return to South Africa. He is unwilling to take legal action or speak out, either due to the conditions of his release, or simply because he wants to put the almost 10-year ordeal behind him. He was released last year innocent of all terrorism charges.
His case is an illustration of the absurd, cyclical nature of torture and its resultant profiling of “suspects” –and how it doesn’t work. “Khalid Rashid could well be a person who was sought after as a result of information elicited from someone else under torture,” says Omar.
A flimsy disguise, and no accountability
Originally, the South African government tried to disguise Rashid’s disappearance as immigration-related – Rashid was a Pakistani national residing in South Africa – but classified documents, nicknamed the “samoosa docket” that came to light during the 2009 trial, show clear evidence that Rashid was arrested at the behest of British Intelligence and that the Home Affairs Ministry in South Africa falsified documents with the aim of misleading the court.
Now, with the case lodged at the International Criminal Court, Omar awaits international action to hold South African government ministers accountable – in particular the then Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, Minister of Home Affairs Nosiviwe Mapila Nqakula, Minister of Safety and Security Charkes Nqakula and Minister of Justice Brigette Mabundla – as well as immigration officials, and police and security agencies, who acted outside due process to facilitate Rashid’s disappearance.
A security operation from the start
Rashid’s disappearance shines light on the way in which South African security operates, where ex-apartheid police work hand-in-hand with government officials who act outside of the law.
Rashid was apprehended at the same time as an Indian national, Mohammed Ali Ebrahim Jeebhai, whom the government unsuccessfully attempted to deport. Rashid was also taken from his home at night time – a far cry from a conventional immigration related arrest.
The operation took place in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, and was commandeered by the head of the Police Crime Intelligence Unit, Willie Els, an ex-member of the notorious Vlakplaas unit that operated at the behest of the apartheid government, whose human rights atrocities were revealed during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The “samoosa docket” reveals that Els was acting under the directorship of British intelligence.
The operation drew in immigration officials who acted outside of their jurisdiction – including a senior Home Affairs official based in Pretoria, Joseph Swartland, who became the first person to interrogate Rashid. Swartlandwas Els’ first port-of-call. It also drew in members of the Crime Intelligence Unit in Durban, whose Task Team conducted the night raid on Rashid’s home.
Forced to surrender his rights
After his arrest, both Rashid and Jeebhai were forcefully moved from Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal province, to Cullinan, a small town in Gauteng Province between 700km and 800km away, instead of to Durban, which is the closest international airport, 200km away.
Rashid’s rights under immigration law were also waived – suspects are not allowed to be held for longer than 48 hours, and they are also allowed to legally challenge charges against them. Even under the Criminal Procedures Act, Rashid was detained illegally; to be arrested in this case demands a criminal act, a charge and an arrest.
Jeebhai’s permit was found to be fraudulent, and he was taken to Lindele Detention Centre for deportation (from where he was later released). Rashid remained at Cullinan Police Station, and despite the apparent show around immigration issues, was not asked for his original passport and work permit. The original documents were found later on by his family.
It was in Cullinan, also, that Rashid signed a document that waived his rights to legal representation – proof, Omar says, that Rashid was being intimidated and at the very worst, tortured. On 5 November, Rashid was handed over by Joseph Swartland to Pakistani intelligence officials at Waterkloof Airforce Base.
But why Khalid Rashid?
When Omar describes Khalid Rashid, he speaks of a soft-spoken family man, a “conventional guy who joined political discussions, but certainly no freedom fighter”. Rashid was in South Africa, says Omar, “for safety reasons”, which means he may have been fleeing political persecution in Pakistan.
In Rashid’s case, as in many others in the War on Terror, his political profile in Pakistan may have caused a blip on the screen. It is disquieting to see that when it dovetailed with US-UK Counter-Terrorism policies, Pakistani law in effect became South African law, rights were violated and one man’s voice went unheard.
Now, the case has been lodged with the ICC and local prosecutorial avenues have been exhausted – Omar says that to prosecute then minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils and all the other officials who were involved in the case, stands to split apart the ANC and “strike our young democracy into tatters”. Instead, he says, it’s important to keep up public pressure to ensure that this does not happen again to anyone on this soil.
“President Zuma assured me when he took office that there would be no more enforced disappearances in South Africa,” says Omar.
It is a testament to the long shadow of torture, and perhaps a sign of his faith, that Rashid is still quiet.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)