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Former Guantánamo Bay detainee faces re-victimisation in Algeria, UN experts say

09 May 2024

GENEVA (9 May 2024) – UN experts* warned today that former Guantánamo Bay detainee Saeed Bakhouche, now facing terrorism charges in Algeria, would not get a fair trial and risked renewed arbitrary detention.

In April 2022, the United States cleared Bakhouche for release from U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay and transferred him to Algeria in April 2023, under assurances that he would be humanely treated.

“Mr. Bakhouche was arbitrarily detained at the U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay for over 20 years and tortured in U.S. custody,” the experts said. “He was immediately arrested on arrival in Algeria, detained incommunicado and de facto outside the protection of the law, threatened in interrogation and denied legal representation.”

Algeria released Bakhouche in October 2023, but he has been charged with terrorism offences under article 87bis of Algeria’s Penal Code and is due to be tried this month.

“Mr. Bakhouche’s detention and prosecution violate his rights to humane treatment and physical and mental health rehabilitation as a survivor of prolonged arbitrary detention and torture,” the experts said. “Such treatment severely aggravates his tenuous mental and physical state, including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and re-traumatises him as a torture victim.”

“His unjustified prosecution, detention on arrival, and imminent likely detention on the basis of these charges contradicts express guarantees by the U.S. and Algeria that he would be humanely treated on return to Algeria”, the experts said. “The U.S. itself has called for repeal of article 87 for its excessive definition of terrorism”.

“Mr. Bakhouche’s prosecution would violate his fundamental right to fair trial”, the experts said. “After 20 years of arbitrary detention and as a victim of torture, Mr. Bakhouche could not receive a fair and public trial in a national security case in an Algerian court, where there is a lack of independent and adequate legal representation. Broader fair trial concerns include the overly broad definition of terrorism offences and the threat that he will be arbitrarily detained in prisons with documented risks of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” they said.

The experts called for the immediate reconsideration of the charges against Bakhouche, an end to the harmful cycle of re-victimisation and threats of further arbitrary detention, and the prompt protection of his rights, including adequate and tailored healthcare as promised by Algeria and the U.S. when he was repatriated.

“While we welcome the U.S.’ genuine efforts to end detention at Guantánamo Bay, resettling former detainees to their home countries or third countries is only the first step in ensuring long-term safe, humane, and rights respecting futures. Repatriation must not re-traumatise and deprive individuals like Mr. Bakhouche of their fundamental rights,” the experts said.

The experts have been in contact with the Governments of the Algeria and the United States of America on this case.

*The experts: Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Aua Baldé (Chairperson), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chairperson), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska and Ana Lorena Delgadillo Pérez, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

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