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Attorneys Issue Statement Calling for Repatriation of Yemenis Held at Guantánamo
Marc Falkoff, [email protected]
March 12, 2008, New York, NY – Today, more than 30 attorneys from the United States who represent Yemeni men held at Guantánamo issued a statement saying they do not believe the detainees would be tortured if returned to Yemen, and called for all of the Yemeni detainees to be released and repatriated.
Said CCR attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, “More than one-third of the prisoners at Guantanamo right now are from Yemen. Most have been detained without any charge and in brutal conditions for over six years. It is unacceptable that the Yemeni and U.S. governments have not come to an agreement to bring these men home. There is absolutely nothing which should prevent their return to Yemen.”
Yemeni citizens now make up the largest share of the population at Guantánamo – more than one-third of all prisoners – because the United States and Yemen governments have failed to reach agreement on terms for the men's repatriation. The U.S. government has claimed that the diplomatic stalemate is due in part to the Yemen government's refusal to sign a statement indicating it will not torture or abuse Yemeni citizens upon their return to Yemen. In addition, the U.S. government has told Yemen that without such an assurance, lawyers will seek to stop any transfer of their clients from Guantánamo to Yemen, an assertion that the attorneys counter in today’s statement.
The statement issued by the attorneys follows:
We are lawyers for many of the 95 Yemeni citizens who are being detained by the U.S. government at Guantánamo. We write to state clearly that our clients wish to be returned to their home country and that they do not raise any objections to repatriation based on fear of government-sanctioned torture upon their return to Yemen.
Yemeni citizens now make up the largest proportion of prisoners at Guantánamo. Of the 109 Yemeni men who have been detained there by the U.S. government since January 2002, only 13 have been released. One has died in custody. In contrast, every European who has been detained at Guantánamo has been repatriated, as have all the Bahrainis and more than 90 percent of the Saudis. The reason these men were released is that their home countries successfully negotiated with the United States for their repatriation.
Yemen too has negotiated with the U.S. government for the release of its prisoners, but to date those negotiations have achieved little. Our offers of assistance have been rebuffed. Although we lawyers have been denied a seat at the negotiating table, we have been told that one of the chief obstacles to bringing the Yemenis home is the refusal of the Yemen government to agree, in writing, that the Guantánamo prisoners will be treated humanely and will not be tortured upon their return. We have also been told that the U.S. government asserts that we lawyers will oppose repatriation if Yemen does not agree in writing to prohibit torture.
It is true that the U.S. government must, by court order, notify the lawyers for some of the Yemeni prisoners before those men can be moved from Guantánamo to Yemen – or to anywhere else. This notification requirement is important because of the Administration's practice of “rendition,” or sending prisoners to another country in order to be interrogated under torture. As lawyers for the Yemeni prisoners, however, we believe our clients will be treated in accordance with Yemeni law and its Constitution and that they will not be tortured or abused upon their return to Yemen.
We have never previously moved to block any repatriation for any of our Yemeni clients, and we anticipate no reason to delay or object to the repatriation of any of our Yemeni clients who are still at Guantánamo.
We hope that this statement will help persuade the Yemeni government to reach an accommodation with the U.S. government on the non-issue of torture assurances, and that the Yemeni government will accordingly act more proactively to bring its citizens home.
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.