The petition indicates that Mr. Djamel Ameziane was born in 1967 and raised in Kabylie, Algeria, where he worked as a hydraulics technician after finishing the university. The petitioners describe that Kabylie, situated in northern Algeria, is an unstable region known for frequent violent clashes between the Algerian Army and Islamic resistance groups, where government agents are known to subject practicing Muslims, such as Mr. Ameziane, to acts of harassment. Due to this environment of violence and discrimination, he immigrated to Europe in 1992; he applied for a visa in Austria and worked for three years until his visa was denied in 1995. Mr. Ameziane then immigrated to Canada, where he applied for asylum for fear of returning to Algeria; he worked in Canada until his visa was denied in 2000. The petitioners indicate that Mr. Ameziane then immigrated to Afghanistan where he believed he could freely practice his religion.
After the war began in 2001, Mr. Ameziane attempted to flee to Pakistan but was captured by Pakistani authorities and turned over to U.S. officials. United States authorities allegedly later told Mr. Ameziane that the Pakistanis had sold him for a bounty. The petitioners allege that in January 2002, Mr. Ameziane was transferred to the U.S. airbase in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is stated that at this detention facility Mr. Ameziane was subjected to torture and inhumane treatment including, but not limited to: being punched, kicked, slammed to the ground, searched in a forceful and abusive way, threatened with dogs and with firearms, and subject to religious abuse.
On or about February 11, 2002, Mr. Ameziane was allegedly forced to board a plane while hooded and shackled and, while chained to the floor, traveled 15 hours to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. Once there, he was chained to a bus and forbidden to speak or move, and was beaten if he swayed with the bus’ movement. Once at Guantanamo, the alleged victim was placed at the facility known as Camp X-Ray for almost three months, until April 2002, in a wire mesh cage cell that measured six square feet. The petitioners state that in a letter to his attorneys, Mr. Ameziane described how guards would gratuitously yell obscenities and insults at him every time they walked by his cell or gave him an order, often for no reason; for example, to demand that he arrange his basic personal items in a certain order.
After being detained at Camp X-Ray, the petitioners note that Mr. Ameziane was held in other areas of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, including several stints in solitary confinement of up to a month at a time. He has also allegedly suffered deliberate deprivation of sleep and physical mistreatment, including, but not limited to, being sprayed fully with pepper spray, waterboarding, and general other beatings resulting in serious physical injuries. The petitioners additionally contend that Mr. Ameziane was mistreated by being disrupted while praying and witnessing deliberate desecrations of the Qu’ran. Specifically, they submit that during interrogations, Mr. Ameziane was allegedly bound tightly for extended periods of time, which caused his extremities to swell; locked in an interrogation room for up to 30 hours with extremely loud music playing; and threatened with violence.
Since March 2007, Mr. Ameziane has been detained in Camp VI, where he was allegedly transferred as punishment for not speaking with his interrogators. He was allegedly housed in a windowless six by twelve feet concrete and steel cell with no openings for natural light or air, where the temperature was kept extremely cold; the only exposure to the outdoors was when he was allowed to spend two hours a day in another cell with two story walls and a wire mesh ceiling. The only staple items Camp VI prisoners were permitted in their cells were a thin mat on which to sleep, a pair of pants, a shirt, and a pair of flip flops. All other items --such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, a Styrofoam cup, and a towel-- were considered “comfort items” and could be taken away for any infraction.
As a result of this specific form of detention, it is asserted that the alleged victim suffered serious deterioration of his vision. When he requested to receive optometric care, the request was ignored for almost a year. The glasses he did finally receive were the wrong prescription, which caused him a headache after each use. Additionally, due to the cold temperature in his cell, Mr. Ameziane allegedly suffered from rheumatism in his legs, a condition that was not medically treated.
The medical care Mr. Ameziane has received has allegedly been negligent and abusive. The petitioners state that Mr. Ameziane has sought medical treatment for a pain in his head for almost a year, but the doctor who examined him told him there was nothing he could do. On multiple occasions, Mr. Ameziane has requested socks from the infirmary to help him with the rheumatism he suffers in his feet and legs, but was told he would have to ask his interrogator for such items.
The petitioners allege that on one occasion, Mr. Ameziane went into convulsions in his cell, but the guards left him writhing on the floor for hours before taking him to the infirmary. The attending doctor inserted a serum in Mr. Ameziane’s arm, and asked one of the soldiers standing watch to assist him by inserting a syringe needle into Mr. Ameziane’s vein. The guard stuck the needle into his forearm, which began spurting blood. The doctor and the guards laughed while the alleged victim lay chained to the table.
The petitioners allege that during his time in Camps II and III, Mr. Ameziane routinely suffered religious abuse and disruptions. They further submit that guards would yell insults and obscenities at him while he prayed, and would sometimes throw stones at the metal grill window of his cell. In Camp VI, his conditions of isolation allegedly created a structural interference with his religious practice: since he and his fellow inmates could only pray in their separate individual cells, and could not do so communally.
As to the impact of the conditions of detention on Mr. Ameziane’s private and family life, petitioners state inter alia that he has effectively been denied any meaningful contact with his family for over six years, and that he has been deprived of founding his own family and developing his own personal life during some of the prime years of his life. On February 29, 2008, the ICRC facilitated the first telephone call Mr. Ameziane has been permitted to make to a family member or to anyone since 2002. The only other method of communication available to Mr. Ameziane is the mail system, but letters between him and his family have sometimes taken a year or more to reach the other side.
The petitioners claim that the alleged victim has been arbitrarily held in detention all these years due the United States’ failure to ensure a review of the legality of his detention by a competent court, also violating his right to be tried without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released. In support of this assertion, they argue basically that it was not until June 24, 2004 --more than two years after the opening and transfer of detainees to Guantanamo-- that the U.S. Supreme Court held in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), that U.S. federal courts have jurisdiction to hear petitions of Guantanamo detainees. Shortly afterwards, the U.S. Congress passed two laws pertinent to the detainees’ right to habeas corpus: the Detainee Treatment Act (“DTA”) on December 2005 and the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”) on October 2006, which basically created a legal system that denies the constitutional right to habeas to Guantanamo detainees, and only allows a limited review of the procedure before the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). In other words, the laws limit access to the courts for the review of the determination of the “combatant status” of the detainees according to the procedures established by the Department of Defense itself.
On June 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Boumediene v. Bush /Al Odah v. United States, 553 U.S. 723 (2008),(Boumediene) that the MCA’s “habeas-stripping provision” was unconstitutional with respect to Guantanamo detainees and that the review process under the DTA was not an adequate substitute for full habeas review. However, according to the information provided by the petitioners, on March 23, 2011, the habeas corpus petition lodged by Mr. Ameziane’s attorneys on February 24, 2005 has still not been decided on the merits by the D.C. District Court. The petitioners also argue that even taking into account the provisions of International Humanitarian Law (as lex specialis), Mr. Ameziane’s detention is clearly arbitrary, since the Third and Fourth Geneva Convention lay down that in the context of an international armed conflict, “combatants” may be detained for the duration of the hostilities, so long as the detention serves the purpose of preventing them from continuing to take up arms against the detaining party. Once the conflict has come to an end, prisoners of war and non-combatants must be released, although they may be detained until the end of any criminal proceedings brought against them.
Petitioners argue that the basic position of the United States is that it should be able to detain the Guantanamo prisoners as “enemy combatants,” without charge or effective access to the courts, for the duration of its “war on terror,” which by the government’s own admission is a war without end. Furthermore, the government itself has confirmed that the objective of the ongoing detention of Guantanamo detainees is not primarily to prevent any individual from taking up arms against the United States, but to obtain information and intelligence.
The petitioners also complain that the alleged victim would be at risk of persecution if he is repatriated to Algeria. The U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo have purportedly threatened to send Mr. Ameziane back to Algeria if he does not cooperate with them, indicating that they understand he would be mistreated there. According to the petitioners, the Algerian Ambassador to the United States has informed the lawyers of Algerian Guantanamo detainees that if their clients are repatriated they will be considered serious security threats and subject to further detention and investigation in Algeria. They quote the Algerian Ambassador as stating that there was no reason an Algerian citizen who had lived in Canada or Europe would go to Afghanistan except to engage in unlawful activity.
Thus, the association of Mr. Ameziane with Guantanamo and Afghanistan alone would be enough to create a substantial risk that he would be subjected to abuse or torture in detention and during interrogations upon his return, and perhaps convicted and sentenced to several years of imprisonment. Petitioners add that the Ameziane family has been suspected of terrorist ties since Mr. Ameziane has been detained. Moreover, the fact that he and his family are observant Muslims increases the risk of further aggression in Algeria.
In the course of a meeting held with the Rapporteur on Persons Deprived of Liberty on March 23, 2011, petitioners informed that Mr. Ameziane had been recently transferred to Camp IV. This area is a collective section intended for good behavior detainees, in which the alleged victim has some opportunities to exercise, improve his language skills and learn painting. Due to this and other conditions, he is in better health than in the past. On this occasion, petitioners informed that the habeas corpus lodged by the counsel of Mr. Ameziane on 2005 is still pending for a decision on the merits.