For Immediate Release
Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223 ext. 1,
514-476-3971 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org;
Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada: 416-363-9933 ext. 32, 416-904-7158 (cell);
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6449, email@example.com;
Nell McGarity, Glover Park Group, 202-292-6973;
Jennifer Daskal, Human Rights Watch, 202-612-4349, 202-365-3758 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Canada Urged to Offer Refugee Resettlement to Detainee at Guantanamo
MONRTEAL - Human rights groups today urged Canada to offer refugee resettlement
without delay to Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian who has been unlawfully
detained for more than six years at Guantanamo and who has strong ties
to Canada. The Anglican Diocese of Montreal has applied to resettle
Mr. Ameziane through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
"The refugee sponsorship of Djamel Ameziane is part of the church's
mission of justice and compassion in the world," said The Right
Reverend Barry B. Clarke, Anglican Bishop of Montreal. "Having read
what Djamel has suffered and the risk he would face if returned to
Algeria, I am convinced that sponsoring him is the right thing to do."
The sponsorship is supported by the Canadian Council for
Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the New
York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who call on the
Canadian government to process Mr. Ameziane's case on an urgent basis,
given his ongoing arbitrary detention at Guantanamo.
"Canada can and should resettle Mr. Ameziane on an urgent basis, in
order to free him from continued arbitrary imprisonment," said Janet
Dench, Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
"Canadian law recognizes that refugees at risk of violence, torture and
arbitrary imprisonment are in urgent need of protection: this is
clearly Mr. Ameziane's case."
Mr. Ameziane was sent to Guantanamo after he was sold to the U.S. by
bounty hunters in 2001. He has been imprisoned there without charge or
a fair hearing for more than six and a half years. He has been
subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment during his
imprisonment, and was held in solitary confinement in a small
windowless cell for over a year. He cannot be returned to Algeria
because of a risk of serious human rights violations, based on the
stigma of having been suspected of terrorism related activities and
detained in Guantanamo.
"Amnesty International is calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay
detention camp and for lawful solutions to be found for all the
detainees," said Anne Sainte-Marie, Amnesty International. "It is
imperative that countries such as Canada be a part of the solution.
Mr. Ameziane should be immediately released from detention and provided
with protection in Canada."
Canada is the most appropriate country of resettlement for Mr. Ameziane
because he previously lived and worked in Montreal for five years. He
also has a brother in Canada.
"After seven long years of unjustified detention, we - I, his brother,
his entire family, and his friends - are impatient to have him back
with us," said Mr. Ameziane's brother. "Djamel, who is so precious to
us, has never known what violence is in his whole life. He has never
even hurt a fly. Unfortunately, bad luck put him on a path where people
sold him for a few dollars. We so dearly hope that he is freed and
finds his dignity again as a man who is very respectful of others."
Mr. Ameziane has never been alleged by the U.S. government to have engaged in any acts of terrorism or hostilities.
"Mr. Ameziane left Algeria 16 years ago in search of a safe haven and a
better life," said Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney at the Center for
Constitutional Rights. "In conditions at Guantanamo that would break
most of us, he remains hopeful of someday having the chance to build
that life in Canada."
About Djamel Ameziane
Djamel Ameziane is an ethnic Berber from Algeria who fled his home
country 16 years ago in order to escape persecution and seek a better
life. He lived in Austria and then, from 1995, in Canada, where he
made a refugee claim which was rejected in 2000. With few options and
facing forced return to Algeria, he traveled to Afghanistan, one of the
few countries he could enter without a visa. Following the 2001
military offensive against the Taliban, as a foreigner he was an easy
target for corrupt local police who captured him while he was trying to
cross the border into Pakistan as he fled the fighting. Mr. Ameziane
was then sold to U.S. military forces for a bounty.
He was taken first to the U.S. Airbase at Kandahar, Afghanistan and
then to Guantanamo in February 2002. Nearly seven years after he was
first captured, he remains imprisoned without charge and without
judicial review of his detention to date.
Mr. Ameziane has never been alleged by the U.S. government to have
engaged in any acts of terrorism or hostilities. At no time has the
United States charged him with any crime, nor accused him of
participating in any hostile action, of possessing or using any
weapons, of participating in any military training activity or of being
a member of any alleged terrorist organization.
Detention in Guantanamo
On his arrival in Guantanamo, Mr. Ameziane was held for two and a half
months in Camp X-Ray, in a 6-feet-by-6-feet wire mesh cell. Later, Mr.
Ameziane was held in solitary confinement for over a year in a small
windowless cell in Camp 6, one of the harshest facilities in Guantanamo.
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He has been subjected to brutal acts of physical violence at
Guantanamo. In one violent incident, military guards sprayed his entire
body with cayenne pepper and then hosed him down with water to simulate
the skin-burning effect of pepper spray. They then held his head back
and placed a water hose between his nose and mouth, running it for
several minutes over his face and suffocating him, repeating the
operation several times. In describing that experience he writes, "I
had the impression that my head was sinking in water. Simply thinking
of it gives me the chills."
Following that episode, guards cuffed and chained him and took him to
an interrogation room, where he was left for several hours, writhing in
pain, his clothes soaked while air conditioning blasted in the room,
and his body burning from the pepper spray.
Risk of human rights violations in Algeria
Mr. Ameziane could face incommunicado detention, torture and
ill-treatment, and other human rights violations if he were returned to
his native Algeria. As international human rights NGOs and the U.S.
Department of State itself have reported, torture and ill-treatment are
frequently used in detaining and interrogating persons suspected of
links with terrorism. Other Algerian detainees recently returned from
Guantanamo were all detained immediately upon arrival for questioning
for a period of nearly two weeks, during which they were denied access
to a lawyer and their families.
Refugees in Guantanamo
Mr. Ameziane is one of approximately 50 refugees and other persons in
need of international protection left at Guantanamo with no place to
go. They cannot return to their country of origin, because of a risk of
serious rights abuses on the basis of the stigma of having been at
Guantanamo, in addition to other factors in individual cases. For more
information, see Guantanamo's Refugees, a report of the Center for
Canadian Private Sponsorship Application
The Anglican Diocese of Montreal has submitted a sponsorship
application on behalf of Djamel Ameziane under the Private Sponsorship
of Refugees Program. The governments of Canada and Québec are required
to process this application and approve Mr. Ameziane's resettlement in
Canada if he meets the regulatory requirements, i.e. he is a refugee in
need of a durable solution and is not inadmissible to Canada (e.g. on
criminality or security grounds).
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations also defines a
category of applicants for resettlement who are in "urgent need of
protection". These are refugees whose "life, liberty or physical
safety is under immediate threat and, if not protected, the person is
likely to be
(b) subjected to violence, torture, sexual assault or arbitrary imprisonment; or
(c) returned to their country of nationality or of their former habitual residence." (IRPR 138)
Mr. Ameziane has been subjected to violence and torture in
Guantanamo and continues to be subjected to arbitrary imprisonment, now
lasting nearly seven years, with no prospects of safe release unless he
is resettled to Canada.
He clearly meets the definition and should be processed according to
Citizenship and Immigration Canada's special guidelines for refugees in
urgent need of protection, including through the issuance of a
Temporary Resident Permit if necessary to ensure that his arbitrary
imprisonment is ended as soon as possible.
Petition to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
In August 2008, Mr. Ameziane filed the first ever petition by a
Guantanamo detainee with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
(IACHR). The petition addresses the torture, abuse, and other human
rights violations perpetrated against him during his six-year history
of near-incommunicado detention at the prison. Mr. Ameziane's claims
include violations of his rights to freedom from arbitrary detention;
freedom from torture and cruel and degrading treatment, including the
denial of necessary medical care, and religious humiliation and abuse;
protection of his personal reputation, and private and family life; as
well as the right to judicial remedy for violations of his rights. The
petition additionally asks the IACHR to instruct the United States not
to return Mr. Ameziane to Algeria.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for
Justice and International Law filed the petition on Mr. Ameziane's
behalf. On October 28 in Washington D.C., the IACHR will hear
precautionary measures issued in his case. The full text of the
petition is available at http://tinyurl.com/5p3y6u.
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