By Owei Lakemfa
Only a quarter of the eight million Palestinian people live in the Palestine; one million in Gaza, 750,000 in the occupied West Bank and 250,000 inside Israel. The rest, or over six million, are forced to live outside with at least three million of them classified as stateless persons with no legal rights. Yet these Palestinians in the diaspora are hunted like rabbits by the Israeli state.
On September 28, 2022, two Palestinians were confronted in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by four men working for Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. They snatched one of them, a programmer from Gaza while the second Palestinian escaped. The victim was then taken to a chalet where he was tortured and interrogated directly by two Mossad agents via video call.
The New Strait Times, Malaysia’s oldest newspaper published since 1845 reported that for 24 hours, the Palestinian was interrogated and beaten by his Malaysian captors whenever the answer he gave were not satisfactory to the Israeli agents.
It reported that the Israelis wanted to know the depth of the victim’s knowledge of computer application development, what he knew about the Palestinian group, Hamas’ expertise in developing software and information on its military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigade.
Luckily for the victim, his colleague who escaped, alerted the Malaysian police which was able to trace the victim and free him. He had sustained injuries to his body, head and legs. Both Palestinians left the country, eleven Malaysians were charged with the kidnap while the Israelis remain free in their country to track down more Palestinians abroad for abduction or even murder. Israel at home, claims to be a democracy based on the rule of law, but believes it is licensed abroad to carry out brigandage and murder defenceless people who are given no chance to defend themselves.
Nnamdi Kanu is the leader of the separatist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. He was on bail in September 2017 when the military invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State. He escaped the bloody invasion and fled the country. On June 19, 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya, he drove himself to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport named after the father of the then Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
His mission was to receive an IPOB leader. In the underground car park, he was abducted, and then, terrorised for eight days before his rendition to Abuja on Sunday, June 27. He was travelling on his British passport. So it was a case of a vising foreign national abducted by a third country. His lawyer in Nigeria, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, claimed Kanu was “mercilessly beaten and tortured” in a private residence before his extradition.
It was a clear case of a government sworn to uphold the rule of law, constitutionality and fundamental human rights, caught abroad violently violating all these.
But the Nigerian courts would have none of these. The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Thursday October 13, 2022, quashed the terrorism charges against Kanu, discharged and acquitted him because it was satisfied that the government flagrantly violated Nigerian, African and international laws in abducting him.
The appellate court held that the proceedings against Kanu amounted to “an abuse of criminal prosecution in general”. It declared that: “The court will never shy away from calling the Executive to order when it tilts towards Executive recklessness”.
In the criminality called extraordinary rendition, the abductors sometimes mix up faces and people. This was the case of Khaled El-Masri, a German who was seized by Macedonian agents on December 31, 2003 and held in solitary confinement for 23 days on suspicion of being a member of Al-Qaida.
The Macedonians transferred him to the American Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, who flew him to Kabul, Afghanistan where he was detained and interrogated. Nobody was ready to listen to his explanations or cross check his claims. When after four months the Americans discovered their error, rather than apologise and return him home, they flew him back to Europe and abandoned him on a roadside in Albania.
There was also the case of Syrian-born Canadian, Maher Arar, who was detained at the JFK Airport, New York while returning from vacation. He was first taken to a detention centre in Brooklyn, then flown to Jordan before being finally dumped in a prison in Syria.
In the last two decades, the Americans have illegally abducted over 150 persons across the world and dumped them in its detention centres in places like Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Diego Garcia, Guantánamo and Afghanistan – before the Americans were forced to evacuate that country.
A former CIA agent, Robert Baer, said of the shadowy American programme: “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt.”
Ambassador Alex Saab, a Colombian-born Venezuelan diplomat was flying to Iran to buy food and medicines for his country. On June 12, 2020, his aircraft refueled in Cape Verde where he was abducted and detained. The regional Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, court ruled his detention illegal and ordered Cape Verde to pay him $200,000 in compensation. But rather than free him, he was delivered to the Americans who bundled him to their country where he sits in jail. The Americans accuse him of money laundering for violating unilateral United States sanctions against Venezuela and Iran.
When the Americans tried a similar action against Huawei Executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 by getting Canada to detain her preparatory to bundling her to America, the Chinese retaliated by seizing two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and charged them with espionage. Wanzhou had been accused of having business dealings with Iran in violation of unilateral American sanctions. A deal had to be reached exchanging her for the Canadians.
France is another player in the game. In 1994, Venezuelan internationalist, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez better known as Carlos the Jackal was visiting Sudan when French agents abducted him. Carlos who had led campaigns for Palestinian freedom, has since remained in jail having received three life sentences.
France has a long history of such abductions. In October 1956 it hijacked an aircraft in which Moroccan-born Algerian freedom fighter, Ahmed Ben Bella was travelling. He was set free on July 5, 1962 and went on to become President of a free Algeria.
Abdullah Ocalan, 73, sits in a Turkish prison for championing the minority rights of Kurds in Turkey. He was abducted in Nairobi, Kenya by a Turkish secret agent in February 1999.
Countries cannot claim to operate the rule of law at home while committing criminality abroad.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.