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When Tanzanian Suleiman Abdullah arrived in “The Darkness”, so overwhelming was the stench that he thought he was back in his home of Zanzibar, and the smell was of rotting coral.  In fact, he was far from his Indian Ocean homeland, in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan, having been “rendered” – flown forcibly by plane, with no opportunity to challenge his transfer – from Somalia, via (he believes) Kenya and Djibouti.

Suleiman spent five years in US secret detention before being released without charge or trial in 2009, declared “no threat” to the United States. Recent official US documentation confirms that Suleiman was tortured whilst in US detention. Since his release, Suleiman has worked hard to rebuild his life.

New research by Justice Forum reveals that Suleiman Abdullah’s case is just one of at least 165 cases of rendition involving East African states, and East Africans, carried out by the US and partner states in the region over the past twenty years, in the name of counterterrorism.

The practise of “rendition”, especially in the counterterrorism context, is simply an unlawful transfer of an individual between jurisdictions.  The transfer can be unlawful for a variety of reasons, but typically involves denying the victim the opportunity to challenge the transfer. Rendition is often part of a matrix of human rights violations including incommunicado and arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and sometimes torture.  The term “extraordinary rendition” was coined by the CIA specifically to describe their practise of transferring terror suspects to secret detention in locations around the world.

We’ve assembled 165 rendition cases in a “Data Map”, an interactive, geographical database, which charts all known renditions involving East Africa, between the mid-1990s and the present.

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There are 165 cases in the Data Map, involving:

  • 491 individual transfers (many prisoners were transferred multiple times),
  • across 56 different detention sites; and
  • involving 22 states;
  • East African states involved in these renditions include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti.
  • The vast majority of the rendition victims featured in the Data Map were held incommunicado and without the opportunity to challenge their detention before a competent court.

Read our East Africa Renditions Report here to learn more.