International Human Rights Tribunal Hears Guantánamo Detainees’ Claims
WASHINGTON - 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
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
"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
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
"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 the IACHR,
For a video and audio recording of today's hearing, visit http://www.cidh.org/Audiencias/select.aspx.
For more information on CCR's work with Mr. Ameziane and documents relating to his IACHR case, click here.
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 - www.cejil.org.
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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.