May 15, 2009, New York, New York – Today, Lakhdar Boumediene, an Algerian citizen who had been detained at Guantánamo Bay since his seizure in Bosnia in 2001, was released to France. Mr. Boumediene, who was exonerated by the Bosnian government in 2004 and whose detention was determined to be unlawful by a United States federal court in 2008, will join his wife and two daughters in France. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement in response to his release:
“We applaud the French government for its humanitarian act in moving the United States one step closer to shutting the doors at Guantánamo. However, Europe cannot and will not solve the problem if the U.S. does not respond in kind. This is a critical moment for the U.S. to do its part by admitting the Uighur detainees – men the Bush administration itself approved for release from Guantánamo – into the U.S. The failure to do so will undermine any willingness on our allies’ part to do more and will once again put the U.S. in the position of holding the Guantánamo problem alone.”
By offering protection to Mr. Boumediene, France joins Albania and the United Kingdom as the only countries to accept detainees who are nationals of other nations. In 2006, Albania offered resettlement to a total of eight detainees from Egypt, Algeria, Russia and China (East Turkestan). The United Kingdom accepted detainees who were former legal residents, including Omar Deghayes from Libya and Binyam Mohammed from Ethiopia.
Approximately 60 of the men currently held in Guantánamo cannot lawfully be sent back to their countries of origin because they face a risk of persecution or torture. They come from countries including Algeria, Azerbaijan, China (East Turkestan), Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan. Others are stateless and have no country to which they can return.
CCR represents four men who need humanitarian protection in a safe third country in order to leave Guantánamo. All have been detained for over seven years and none have ever been charged with a crime.
Muhammed Khan Tumani and Abdul Nasser Khan Tumani are a father and son from Syria. Muhammed was just 17 when he was first taken into custody. He remains detained in solitary confinement in Camp 6 and has been separated from his father for years.
Abdul Ra’ouf Ammar Mohammed Abu Al Qassim is from Libya. He was cleared to leave Guantanamo as early as 2006. The Bush administration transferred two Libyan men from Guantánamo to Libya in 2006 and 2007. The two men continue to be held without trial in Libyan prisons and neither the United States nor Libya will comment on their prison conditions or treatment. The Bush administration twice attempted forcibly to transfer Mr. Al Qassim to Libya.
Djamel Ameziane is from Algeria. He is an ethnic Berber who fled his home country over 16 years ago in order to escape persecution and make a better life for himself. He has lived in both Europe and Canada and speaks French fluently.
CCR brought the first lawsuit challenging the detentions at Guantánamo and since then has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men still at Guantanamo. In addition, CCR has been central to the efforts to secure humanitarian protection in safe countries for the approximately 60 men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.