10 December 2013 Two independent United Nations human rights experts have voiced concern about the fate of Djamel Ameziane, who was recently transferred by the United States from the Guantánamo Bay detention centre to Algeria, from which he fled two decades ago to escape persecution.
“We are deeply concerned that the life of Mr. Ameziane could be in danger in Algeria,” said the Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez, and on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson.
They drew 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.
Mr. Ameziane was sent back by the US 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.
The experts noted that the US Government has sought and obtained assurances of humane treatment from the Algerian authorities. “However, diplomatic assurances are unreliable and ineffective in protecting against torture and ill-treatment, and States should not resort to them,” they stressed in a news release.
“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 same Special Rapporteurs had expressed their concern in relation to the US Supreme Court’s decision to transfer two Algerian detainees from Guantánamo Bay to their homeland.
The experts will follow up on the situation of Mr. Ameziane with the Algerian Government to ensure that he is treated humanely and with respect.
Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
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