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International Human Rights Body Admits First Guantánamo Case: Rights Groups Urge an End to the Indefinite Detention of Algerian

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press@ccrjustice.org

March 30, 2012, New York and D.C. — Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a landmark admissibility report in the case of Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian man imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, without any charge or trial for more than 10 years now.
 
Djamel Ameziane’s co-counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) issued this statement:
 
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has made the extremely significant decision to issue an admissibility report in the case of Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian man imprisoned at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantánamo without charge or trial for more than 10 years now.
 
This ruling marks the first time the IACHR has accepted jurisdiction over the case of a man detained at Guantánamo, and underscores the fact that there has been no effective domestic remedy available to victims of unjust detentions and other abuses at the base. The IACHR will now move to gather more information on the substantive human rights law violations suffered by Djamel Ameziane—including the harsh conditions of confinement he has endured, the abuses inflicted on him, and the illegality of his detention. The IACHR will specifically review the U.S. government’s failure to transfer Djamel Ameziane or any man detained at Guantánamo for more than a year—the longest period of time without a transfer since the prison opened in January 2002. This failure has moved the United States further out of compliance with international human rights law and the precautionary measures issued by the IACHR to Djamel Ameziane (2008) and other detained men (2002).
 
Djamel Ameziane is a refugee from Algeria. He left his country in the early 1990s to avoid a civil war which killed hundreds of thousands of people. He lived in Austria and Canada for many years, working as a well-known chef, until he was denied permanent refuge. Fearing deportation to Algeria, he fled to Afghanistan just before the US invasion in October 2001. Like thousands of other refugees, he fled to Pakistan to escape the war and was picked up and sold to US forces for a bounty. If he is returned to Algeria, he fears he will be persecuted based on his Berber ethnicity and his status as a Guantánamo detainee. The Obama administration has already forcibly repatriated two Algerian men and he fears that same fate. He waits and hopes for another country to resettle him, perhaps a country where he can use his French, English and German language fluencies, but he would gladly accept anywhere safe.
 
J. Wells Dixon, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR, said, ‘We renew our request that the IACHR facilitate a dialogue between the United States and other countries belonging to the Organization of American States toward the safe resettlement of men such as Djamel Ameziane, as indefinite detention at Guantánamo will not end unless the international community offers safe homes for the men who cannot return to their countries of nationality for fear of torture or persecution.’
 
We hope the international community will make a humanitarian gesture and offer Djamel Ameziane protection and the chance to rebuild his life in safety.
 
The Obama administration should immediately direct the Department of Defense to certify Djamel Ameziane for transfer, or, if necessary, authorize a “national security waiver” of the transfer restrictions for him and all other men who have been unjustly detained at Guantánamo. Under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2012, Djamel Ameziane needs a certification or waiver before he can be released.
 
Indefinite detention is not an option. Detained men must be afforded fair trials or released. It is long past the time for impunity at Guantánamo to end, and for the closure of Guantánamo to be addressed. Today’s IACHR decision is a step in that direction.”
 
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is an organization advocating for the defense and promotion of human rights in the Americas. CEJIL's main objective is to ensure full implementation of international human rights standards in the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), through the effective use of the Inter-American human rights system and other international protection mechanisms. CEJIL is a nongovernmental nonprofit with consultative status at the OAS, the United Nations (UN) and observer status at the African Commission on Human Rights. Visit www.cejil.org

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.