Three detainees were released on Tuesday from the Guantánamo Bay detention camp to their homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Boudella al Hajj, Mustafa Ait Idr and Mohammed Nechle are part of a group of six Bosnian men of Algerian origin arrested by civilian police in BiH, handed over to US military forces and transferred to Guantánamo in 2002.
However, the three other men remain in Guantánamo. Amnesty International has urged the Bosnian authorities to ensure their safe return to Bosnia.
The US district court for the District of Columbia ruled on 20 November 2008 that five of them should be released, as the US government could not justify their continued detention as “enemy combatants”. Judge Leon ruled that the US government could keep the sixth man in detention.
The Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina ruled in two separate decisions in October 2002 and in April 2003 that the BiH authorities had arbitrarily expelled the men. It stated that they had violated the men’s rights to liberty.
The Chamber ordered BiH to use diplomatic channels to protect the rights of all six men, taking all possible steps to contact them, provide them with consular support and ensure they would not be subjected to the death penalty.
Amnesty International has said that, based on these decisions, the authorities of BiH should take all necessary measures to secure prompt return of all six men. The Bosnian government recently reiterated its “unequivocal commitment” to repatriating all the men in a case before the European Court of Human Rights.
“We can’t understand why the remaining men are still in Guantánamo,” said Marek Marczynski, researcher at Amnesty International who is in a fact-finding mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “The US affirmed they can go. The authorities should implement the decisions of the BiH judiciary and take all measures to bring back all of the men.”
The six men were the first of approximately 230 still held in Guantánamo to have their habeas corpus petitions ruled on following the US Supreme Court’s judgment in June 2008 that all Guantánamo detainees have the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
“For over six years, Guantánamo has been a symbol of abuse and illegality,” said Marek Marczynski. “The stories of these three Bosnians show how other governments, including the Bosnian, can be part of the solution to the problem of Guantánamo.”