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Representatives of Deported Pakistani Seek Answers from S. Africa


Lawyers representing the family of a Pakistani national deported from South Africa say they will take their case to the International Criminal Court if the government will not reveal where the man was sent. The lawyers accuse the South African government of delivering the man into British custody for interrogation over his alleged links to the Taleban.

In early November last year, Khalid Rashid was put on a plane at a South African military base and flown out of the country. He had been arrested and accused of being in the country without a visa, but the Pakistani national has not been seen or heard from since, and it was not until his family took the matter to the Pretoria High Court that the Department of Home Affairs was prepared to comment on what had happened to Rashid.

The department said he had been deported to his home country, but Pakistani consular officials have no record of the man's arrival and say he is not in Pakistan.

A spokesman for the South African government, Joel Netshinshenze, said Pretoria has no right to ask what happened to him once he left the country. "Pakistan has got its own laws and its own procedures, and we believe it is the responsibility of the legal representatives of the family to ensure that they intervene on the Pakistani side to interact with the Pakistani government to establish the facts about this matter," he said.

But the government's account of events is being questioned. One of the pilots who flew Khalid Rashid out of the country has reportedly said the plane landed in Kenya, not Pakistan, as claimed by Home Affairs. The lawyer representing the family alleges Khalid Rashid was deported at the request of the British government and is being held and interrogated at a secret location because he was a known member of Afghanistan's Taleban.

Rashid's family lawyer, Zehir Omar, argues South Africa's government violated its own laws by failing to allow the accused to seek legal counsel before he was deported. He says the government has also violated international laws against enforced deportation.

"We are a young democracy, less than 15 years old," said the lawyer. "It is the duty of the international criminal court of justice and the United Nations to assist to prevent young democracies from falling into mayhem. The enforced disappearance of Khalid Rashid and the repeated attempts by the ministers to not give frank information to the court is indicative of a mindset which is dismissive of the potential of a crime against humanity."

Zehir Omar is seeking advice from the International Criminal Court.