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Algerian Justice Minister: there are only 17 Algerian detainees at Guantanamo

Echourouk Online
July 29, 2007

A commission has recently gone to Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, Cuba and verified the number of Algerian detainees there which is 17, according to Algerian justice minister Tayeb Belaiz.

The minister indicated that one of the 17 captives would be released soon.

As for prosecutions against the 16 remaining Algerian detainees, Tayeb Belaiz said the Algerian justice will decide in their case on the basis of the Algerian law. “If they committed crimes they would be prosecuted and if they are not guilty they will be acquitted.”

Algerian officials said Washington had to extradite the Algerian detainees to the authorities of their homeland before appearing in court.

On the other hand, Algeria would not comply with the U.S. “instructions” on “putting them in prison” without charges, said well-informed sources.

Algeria also refused to deal with the detainees’ issue in a selective way and this constituted one of disagreement reasons between Algeria and the U.S. about the issue of Guantanamo detainees, said the same sources.

In this regard, an American delegation arrived in Algeria in June to hold talks with Algerians on the “fate” of Guantanamo detainees, said close sources.

The US Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues, who visited Algiers on April 21, discussed with the Algerian Foreign Ministry’s officials the case of the Algerians now in detention in the notorious Guantanamo concentration camp which closure has also been high on the two sides’ discussions agenda.

The closure of the camp was a personal will and decision of the American President George Walker Bush, while giving no indication on when the outlawed camp would happen. Yet, it is likely to be closed by the end of 2007 or in the beginning of 2008, the same sources told Echorouk.

The closure of Guantanamo camp is a consequence of Human rights groups’ denunciation of torture, and human rights violations. The file has also damaged the reputation of the US Administration.

American President G.W Bush had previously announced he would discuss the issue with countries concerned about the deportation of their nationals to the home countries after the closure, but in Algeria’s case, a lack of any deportation treaties with the United States is a hurdle in the finalisation of the operation.

The Chairperson of the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Mr Farouk Ksentini said his institution sent a letter to the US authorities in which he called for a release of the Algerian detainees.

Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem for his part previously said that Algerians detained in Guantanamo even if “Algeria has the right to defend the detainees and call for their release even if they are bi-nationals” while some of the latter were released by the US authorities after their second countries requested it.

Algerians detained in Guantanamo underwent the worst forms of torture. Algerians went through difficult times in the camp and were sometime forced not to sleep for investigation purposes, a lawyer in charge of the Algerian cases in Guantanamo, Mr. Robert B. Kirsch told Echorouk Al Yaoumi.

They all suffer from psychological and health problems, according to Mr. Kirsch.

The New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights blamed the conditions of the prisoners at Guantanamo, saying that "the legal black hole of Guantanamo is an unconscionable mistake".

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