October 28, 2008, Washington, DC – Today, an international human rights tribunal met to review the U.S. government's treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) convened the hearing to assess the United States’ compliance with urgent measures of protection issued for Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian refugee detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay for nearly seven years, and for all Guantanamo detainees.
Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) argued for Mr. Ameziane and the detainees. Morris Davis, former Chief Prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, testified about the inadequacy of the military commission proceedings at the base. Representatives from the Department of State and the Organization of American States attended the hearing on behalf of the government.
Mr. Ameziane is one of approximately 50 Guantánamo detainees who cannot return to their home countries for fear of persecution and need third countries to offer them protection in order to leave Guantanamo safely. Last week, a coalition of human rights and religious groups filed an application on his behalf for refugee resettlement in Canada, where he has strong ties. Mr. Ameziane has family in Canada and lived in Montreal for five years prior to his detention. The Anglican Diocese of Montreal has applied to sponsor him through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
“The IACHR has repeatedly called for the U.S. not to transfer detainees to countries where they face a risk of torture,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney at CCR. “The U.S. has violated this call before, and we are concerned that it may violate it again in the case of Mr. Ameziane. This hearing is an important opportunity to raise these pressing concerns before a respected international body.”
Sold to the U.S. by bounty hunters, CCR client Djamel Ameziane has suffered various forms of torture and abuse during his almost seven years of near-incommunicado detention at Guantánamo, including brutal physical beatings, extended solitary confinement, and being held down while a water hose directed between his nose and mouth prevented him from breathing and made him feel he was drowning. These allegations are consistent with detailed reports of torture at Guantanamo by international monitors and the U.S. government itself.
“The arbitrary and indefinite detention of hundreds of men at Guantánamo Bay, as well as the efforts to grant immunity to those involved in torture, stands in stark contrast with the United States’ stated ideals and aspirations to be a standard bearer for human rights,” said Michael Camilleri, staff attorney at CEJIL. “The Inter-American Commission has long condemned the amnesty laws adopted by Latin American dictatorships, and it must now condemn the U.S.’s efforts to shield those responsible for torture and abuse at Guantánamo Bay.”
Today’s hearing was the first time the IACHR heard claims on behalf of an individual Guantánamo prisoner. The Commission expressed outrage at the extensive allegations of Mr. Ameziane’s abuse and arbitrary detention at Guantánamo, and took the United States to task for its refusal to allow the Commission unfettered access to the base
The Commission first issued precautionary measures for all Guantanamo detainees in 2002 and has reiterated and expanded them several times since then, calling for the United States to ensure detainees' rights to a fair review of their detention and to humane treatment, and not to transfer detainees to countries where they may be at risk of torture. In addition, the IACHR ordered urgent precautionary measures to protect Mr. Ameziane’s life and integrity in response to a petition filed on his behalf by CCR and CEJIL on August 6, 2008.
Mr. Davis, who resigned from his position in October 2007 and has since been an outspoken critic of the commissions’ lack of fairness and independence and the admissibility of evidence obtained through torture.
“I have no doubt that the United States would condemn any country using that kind of evidence against an American citizen,” said Davis. “How can we condemn it when it’s done to us but condone it when we do it to others? There must be a prohibition on the use of evidence obtained by unduly coercive means.”
Established in 1959, the IACHR serves as an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (of which the United States is a member) and is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the western hemisphere. For more information on this organization, visit IACHR's website.
For a video and audio recording of today’s hearing, visit IACHR's Audio Hearings page.
For more information on CCR’s work with Mr. Ameziane and documents relating to his IACHR case, visit the Ameziane v. Obama and Ameziane v. United States case page.
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization with consultative status before the Organization of American States (OAS), the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECO) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights – visit CEJIL's website.