MALAWI has been listed as one of the countries where the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used to carry out its torture of suspects in a highly classified programme of secret detention and extraordinary rendition in joint counterterrorism operations.
Malawi has since been asked to provide appropriate compensation to all individuals subjected to secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations in which it participated.
But government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu said it was difficult for Malawi to comment on the matter considering the period within which the violations occurred which was during the United Democratic Front regime.
Malawi goverment's involvement is revealed in a report released last week by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) called 'Globalising Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition' where it underlines the critical and well-documented role played by countries such as the United Kingdom, Egypt and Jordan.
The report also says three countries in Southern Africa, including Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe, that took part in the torture have largely escaped public attention and criticism.
Chairperson of Malawi's human rights umbrella body the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Undule Mwakasungula told The Sunday Times in an interview, said while Malawi must join the international community in fighting against terrorism because it has no place in the modern and civilised world, the treatment of any suspects of terrorism must be within the national laws and international standards of treating suspects. "The international community must work with states in fighting against terrorism but with respecting their sovereignty too," he said. He said what the report has revealed are some of the challenges countries like Malawi will be struggling with in terms of how to deal with terrorism and the international community.
Page 95 of the report reveals that 'Malawi has been involved in the capture, detention, abuse, and transfer of individuals subjected to extraordinary rendition'.
The report says Laid Saidi, an Algerian citizen, was apprehended in May 2003 by Tanzanian police, driven to Dar es Salaam, and put in jail before he was driven to the Malawi border and handed over to Malawian authorities in plainclothes three days later.
Laidi says these were accompanied by two middle-aged Caucasian men wearing jeans and t-shirts.
"He was held in a detention facility in Malawi for a week. He reports that the Malawians blindfolded him, his clothes were cut away, and he heard someone taking photographs," says the report, which adds that the agents replaced the blindfold with cotton and tape, inserted a plug in his anus, put a disposable diaper on him, and dressed him.
Laidi told OSJI investigators that they covered his ears and chained his hands and feet before driving him to an airplane and placing him on the floor and then flown to Afghanistan where he was held in the Dark Prison and the Salt Pit.
Similarly, the report reveals further Fahad al Bahli, Ibrahim Habaci, Khalifa Abdi Hassan, Mahmud Sardar Issa, and Arif Ulusam were arrested on June 22, 2003, in Malawi, in a joint operation involving the CIA and Malawi's National Intelligence Bureau.
"Suspected of having Al Qaeda links, the five men were first held in Malawi," the report says "and secretly flown two days later to Harare, Zimbabwe, where they were held for almost a month."
They were then transferred to Sudan, it says where they were released after it was established that there was no evidence linking them to Al Qaeda.
The report quotes an outgoing US ambassador to Malawi who reportedly denied that US agents were involved.
"But a Malawian government official told Amnesty International those US agents controlled the operation and that the US authorities had taken the men out of Malawi on a chartered aircraft," reads the report.
OSJI says there have been no known judicial cases or investigations in Malawi relating to its participation in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations.
The report then recommends to Malawi and other governments involved in the dealings to refuse to participate in CIA extraordinary rendition.
"Refuse to participate in secret detention, including at the behest, or with the involvement, of any US agency or any other government," it further says in its six recommendations.
It urges countries to disclose information relating to human rights violations associated with CIA actions.
The report also asks Malawi to conduct effective and thorough investigations, and where appropriate to include criminal investigations, into the full range of human rights abuses associated with CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, with a view to examining and publicly disclosing the role of, and holding legally accountable, officials who authorized, ordered, assisted, or otherwise participated in these abuses.
Malawi has since been asked to institute safeguards for ensuring that future joint counterterrorism operations do not violate human rights standards, including participating in such operations contingent on compliance with human rights standards.