An inter-American rights body admitted for review Friday the case of a man held at Guantanamo Bay for over 10 years, the first time it accepted jurisdiction over the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
Djamel Ameziane’s co-counsel at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Center for Justice and International Law announced the move, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights does not publicly report on such decisions until they have been communicated to the parties.
The Algerian national filed a request to the commission, an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, in August 2008, to review his jail conditions, alleged abuses he suffered there and the “illegality” of his detention, according to his lawyers.
“The IACHR will specifically review the U.S. government’s failure to transfer Djamel Ameziane or any man detained at Guantanamo for more than a year -- the longest period of time without a transfer since the prison opened in January 2002,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Describing Ameziane as a “refugee,” the lawyers said he left Algeria in the early 1990s as the country plunged into a brutal civil war that killed up to 200,000 people between 1991 and 2002.
He lived and worked as a chef in a high-class restaurant in Vienna but following the 1995 election of a new government in Austria, his visa and work permit were not renewed and he was forced to leave the country. He then traveled to Canada where he sought asylum however after five years his application was denied.
Fearing deportation, he fled to Afghanistan ahead of the U.S.-led invasion there in October 2001. He then crossed the border into Pakistan to escape the war in Afghanistan and was sold to U.S. forces for a bounty, his lawyers said.
“If he is returned to Algeria, he fears he will be persecuted based on his Berber ethnicity and his status as a Guantanamo detainee,” the lawyers said, noting that President Barack Obama’s administration has already forcibly repatriated two Algerian men from Guantanamo.
“He waits and hopes for another country to resettle him.”
J. Wells Dixon, senior staff attorney at CCR, urged the IACHR to facilitate a dialogue between the United States and other countries belonging to the Organization of American States toward the safe resettlement of men such as Djamel Ameziane.”
“Indefinite detention at Guantanamo will not end unless the international community offers safe homes for the men who cannot return to their countries of nationality for fear of torture or persecution,” he said.
The commission has repeatedly called for the closure of the Guantanamo prison camp, the release of prisoners and investigation into the alleged torture and mistreatment of detainees.