GENEVA (10 December 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, today expressed dismay at the recent transfer of Djamel Ameziane from Guantánamo Bay to Algeria.
Mr. Ameziane, who fled Algeria two decades ago to escape violence and persecution, was sent back to his country by the United States Government despite precautionary measures issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requiring the US to honour its non-refoulement obligations - not to return people to places where their lives or enjoyment of human rights could be threatened.
“We are deeply concerned that the life of Mr. Ameziane could be in danger in Algeria,” the experts said, drawing attention to previous cases of forced returns to countries with a proven record of torture, when detainees were held for prolonged periods of time in incommunicado detention on return.
The Special Rapporteurs noted that the US Government has sought and obtained assurances of humane treatment from the Algerian authorities. “However,” they stressed, “diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in protecting against torture and ill-treatment, and States should not resort to them.”
“We have often seen diplomatic assurances used by Governments to circumvent the absolute prohibition of torture as established in the UN Convention against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” the experts said.
“Diplomatic assurances are not legally binding. It is therefore unclear why States that violate binding obligations under treaty and customary international law should comply with non-binding assurances,” they added.
In 2010, the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture and on human rights and counter-terrorism expressed their concern in relation to the US Supreme Court’s decision to transfer two Algerian detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Algeria.
The independent experts will follow up on the situation of Mr. Ameziane with the Algerian Government to ensure that he is treated humanely and with respect.
(*) Check the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx
Juan E. Méndez (Argentina) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on 1 November 2010. He is currently a Professor of Law at the American University – Washington College of Law and Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association. Mr. Méndez has previously served as the President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) until 2009, and was the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide from 2004 to 2007, as well as an advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court, between 2009 and 2010. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
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Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former UN Commission on Human Rights and renewed by the UN Human Rights Council for a three year period in September 2010 and again in March 2013. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx
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