Boumediene and others v. Bosnia and Herzegovina is the first case on behalf of Guantánamo prisoners before an international tribunal. It is also the first case to address the issue of what responsibility other countries that assisted the U.S. in transferring men to Guantánamo have for the violations that occur there.
The petitioners are Bosnian Algerians who were detained in October 2001 in Bosnia on the basis of a diplomatic note delivered by the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo to the Bosnian government. Though the note did not allege any supporting evidence, it asked the Bosnian government to arrest the men because of fears that they were involved in a plan to attack the Embassy. After an extensive investigation yielded no evidence to justify the arrests, the investigative judge of the Supreme Court of Bosnia ordered the men released for lack of evidence. However, immediately upon their release, the men were transferred to Guantánamo where they have been detained without charge since January 2002.
One of the issues of responsibility the court will rule on is whether Bosnia has an obligation to do more diplomatically to try to get its citizens and residents out of Guantanamo, given that it helped put them there in the first place when it delivered the six men to U.S. authorities immediately after they had been cleared of any wrongdoing by a Bosnian court.
“If the European Court rules favorably, it will essentially be telling Bosnia that it has an obligation to get these men out of Guantánamo and to step up and recognize its responsibility to do more to protect these men,” said CCR attorney Pardiss Kebriaei. “The ruling could push other countries to increase their efforts to repatriate their nationals and residents.”
Many countries are guilty of unlawfully assisting the U.S. in its “war on terror” by illegally handing people over to U.S. authorities, letting the U.S. use their territory or airspace to conduct renditions to torture or as sites for secret CIA prisons, and committing other violations of national and international law. This is the first case that addresses the responsibility of a country for redressing these violations.
The European Court of Human Rights is one of the strongest and most respected international human rights tribunals, and its decisions are enforceable.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and – just this month – sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating the largest ever coalition of pro-bono lawyers in order to defend the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have been represented. CCR will be representing the detainees with co-counsel in the Supreme Court on December 5.
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.