Ahmed Belbacha at risk of forced return to Algeria

July 28, 2010

On 17 July, a US Supreme Court ruling resulted in an Algerian national, Abdul Aziz Naji being forcibly repatriated to Algeria. This ruling paves the way for the forced return of the remaining five Algerian nationals, of whom British resident Ahmed Belbacha is one. All six men, who for years have been cleared for release, had refused to return to Algeria where they fear torture and death.

Upon return to Algeria, Mr. Naji “disappeared”, and on 26 July it appeared that he had been indicted on unspecified charges, and was subject to judicial supervision (i.e. imprisonment).

This is the first time that any prisoner has been repatriated against his will under the Obama Administration. His repatriation was condemned by Human Rights Watch and may well constitute a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, a principle of international law which prevents the return of vulnerable persons to countries where their lives or freedom may be at risk.

The US government is keen to repatriate the remaining Algerians, and while Algeria previously only accepted prisoners who wished to return there, it is now happy to acquiesce in their forced repatriation.

Ahmed Belbacha:

Ahmed Belbacha is a 40-year old Algerian who lived in the UK for 18 months in 2000-2001. Cleared for release in 2007, he has chosen to remain at Guantánamo Bay, rather than face the risk to his life in Algeria. This risk was compounded in November 2009 when he was sentenced to a 20-year prison sentence in absentia for membership of ‘a terrorist organisation overseas’. No evidence was produced to back this up.

Ahmed Belbacha now faces the imminent threat of repatriation to Algeria against his will. His lawyers are currently working through the US courts to block his repatriation.

Given that he lived in the UK for 18 months, we believe that on humanitarian grounds, the UK must offer to settle Ahmed Belbacha. The UK government has never sought his return. His lawyer Tara Murray, says:

 “We are in desperate need of help from the British people to put pressure on the British government to bring Ahmed back to the UK so that he can escape the torture and lawlessness that awaits him if he’s sent back to Algeria”.

For more details on his case: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/ahmedbelbacha

Take action for Ahmed Belbacha:

    Write to your MP (find them at www.theyworkforyou.com) and the Foreign Secretary (private.office@fco.gov.uk), urging them to take immediate action to seek the release of Ahmed Belbacha to the United Kingdom. Model letter below: please feel free to modify and personalise.Write to the Algerian Embassy. In the past, the Algerian government has not sought the return of prisoners who did not wish to return there. Please write to the Algerian authorities, asking them not to accept the forced repatriation of prisoners who do not wish to return there, and that they ensure that prisoners who are returned are treated fairly. The Algerian Embassy in London: info@algerianembassy.org.uk. The Permanent Mission of Algeria at the United Nations: mission@algeria-un.org

Dear MP/ William Hague (Foreign Secretary),

I am writing to you as a matter of urgency, concerning the case of Ahmed Belbacha, a British resident who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for over eight years.

Mr Belbacha is a 40-year old Algerian who lived in the UK for 18 months in 2000-2001, having fled Algeria where his life was at risk. While travelling in Pakistan, he was captured and taken to Guantánamo Bay. Cleared for release in 2007, he has chosen to remain at Guantánamo Bay, rather than face risk to his life in Algeria. This risk was compounded in November 2009 when he was sentenced in absentia, to 20 years in prison for “membership of a terrorist organisation overseas”. No real evidence was produced to back this up.

On 17 July, a US Supreme Court ruling resulted in an Algerian national, Abdul Aziz Naji being forcibly repatriated to Algeria. Upon return to Algeria, Mr. Naji “disappeared”, and on 26 July it was confirmed that he had been indicted on unspecified charges, and was subject to judicial supervision (i.e. imprisonment). His return, the first forced repatriation under the Obama administration, was strongly condemned by Human Rights Watch. There is a strong likelihood that in sending Mr. Naji back to Algeria, the US government has breached the principle of non-refoulement.

This ruling paves the way for the forced return of Ahmed Belbacha.

Mr Belbacha’s return to the UK was not sought by the previous government. However, we maintain that given his ties to this country, he should be allowed to return here on humanitarian grounds. Such a move would provide him with a safe haven, and act as a gesture of cooperation with the US in its efforts to find countries for prisoners, and thereby close the prison. Several other European countries have taken this action, providing residence to non-nationals as a means of assisting the US.

I urge you to take urgent action for Ahmed Belbacha to ensure a safe end to his wholly illegal ordeal over the past eight years.

I look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,

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London Guantánamo Campaign

london.gtmo@gmail.com

28 July 2010