Friday, August 22, 2008

CCR Victory

The Commission's measures were issued in response to a petition 
filed on behalf of Mr. Ameziane on August 6 by the Center for Constitutional Rights
(CCR) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). The IACHR first
issued precautionary measures covering all Guantanamo prisoners in 2002 and has
reiterated the measures several times since then. Yesterday's measures are the
first the Commission has issued with respect to a specific individual detainee and
call for the United States to take urgent steps to prevent further irreparable physical
and mental harm to Mr. Ameziane while he remains detained at the base.

Mr. Ameziane has been held without charge at Guantánamo for over six years and suffers
from various physical ailments as a result of his treatment and conditions of confinement,
including a severe loss of vision, for which he has consistently been denied adequate
medical care. U.S. authorities at Guantánamo also continue to subject Mr. Ameziane
to abusive interrogations and have previously threatened to transfer him to his
native Algeria, a country with a known record of human rights abuse where he fears

The Commission requested that the United States:

1. "Immediately take all measures necessary to ensure that Mr. Djamel Ameziane
is not subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture during the
course of interrogations or at any other time, including but not limited to all
corporal punishment and punishment that may be prejudicial to Mr. Ameziane's
physical or mental health;
2. "Immediately take all measures necessary to ensure that Mr. Djamel Ameziane
receives prompt and effective medical attention for physical and psychological ailments
and that such medical attention is not made contingent upon any condition;
3. "Take all measures necessary to ensure that, prior to any potential transfer
or release, Mr. Djamel Ameziane is provided an adequate, individualized examination
of his circumstances through a fair and transparent process before a competent,
independent and impartial decision maker; and
4. "Take all measures necessary to ensure that Mr. Djamel Ameziane is not transferred
or removed to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he
would be in danger of being subjected to torture or other mistreatment, and that
diplomatic assurances are not used to circumvent the United States' non-refoulement

The principal function of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is to promote
the observance and protection of human rights in and by member states of the Organization
of American States, including the United States. It is the only international judicial
body with jurisdiction to hear cases of individual human rights violations committed
by the United States. In doing so, it may issue precautionary measures to prevent
further harm to petitioners while their cases are pending.

"As a member of the Organization of American States, the United States must
heed the Inter-American Commission's urgent request to prevent further irreparable
harm to our client at Guantanamo. For years the United States has shown disregard
for international law; now it has an opportunity to comply with the Commission's
order and finally respect the basic standards of humane treatment and the absolute
prohibition of torture agreed upon by the global community." said Pardiss
Kebriaei, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.


On August 6, 2008, Djamel Ameziane filed the first ever petition by a person detained
by the United States at Guantánamo Bay with the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights (IACHR) to consider the torture, abuse, and other human rights violations
perpetrated against him during his six-year history of near-incommunicado detention
there. Among other abuses, Mr. Ameziane was subjected to a form of waterboarding.

While the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in CCR and co-counsel's case Boumediene
v. Bush this June restores Guantánamo detainees' right to habeas corpus, neither
Mr. Ameziane nor any other Guantánamo detainee has yet had a hearing on the merits
of his case.

Among its several functions, the IACHR receives and investigates reports of violations
of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, to which the United
States is a party. If the Commission rules in favor of the petitioners, it issues
recommendations to the responsible government for relief to the victims, which are
binding. Such recommendations tend to be broad in scope, ranging from the payment
of monetary compensation, to the criminal prosecution of the parties responsible
for the human rights violations, to the modification of laws and policies .

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 Canada, where he applied for political asylum but was ultimately denied
refuge. With few options, he traveled to Afghanistan, but as a foreigner in a land
soon torn apart by conflict, he was an easy target for corrupt local police who
captured him while he was trying to cross the border into Pakistan. Mr. Ameziane
was then handed over to U.S. military forces, presumably for a bounty.

The U.S. military transported him first to the Airbase at Kandahar, Afghanistan
and then to Guantánamo in February 2002, where he was among the first prisoners
to arrive. After more than six years, he remains imprisoned without charge and without
judicial review of his detention.

U.S. personnel have subjected Mr. Ameziane repeatedly to brutal acts of physical
violence during his imprisonment. Guards put him through a form of waterboarding,
where they 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." For over a year, Mr. Ameziane was held in solitary confinement in
a small windowless cell in Camp 6, one of the most restrictive detention facilities
in Guantánamo.

Another time, his entire body was sprayed with cayenne pepper and then hosed down
with water to accentuate the skin-burning effect of pepper spray. Guards then 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.

Mr. Ameziane has never been alleged by the U.S. government to have engaged in any
acts of terrorism or hostilities.

Mr. Ameziane's claims in his petition to the IACHR 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; and
the right to a judicial remedy for the violations of his rights. The petition additionally
asks the IACHR to instruct the United States not to return Mr. Ameziane to his home
country of Algeria.

In order to leave Guantánamo safely, Mr. Ameziane requires a third country to offer
him protection. He is currently seeking resettlement in Canada, where he resided
for five years prior to his detention.

For a copy of the filing and a more detailed profile of Mr. Ameziane, click here


For more information on CCR's work on illegal detention, torture and abuse at
Guantánamo Bay, visit our website at

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.

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 -

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