Bosnia admits to handing terror suspects over to United States

Bosnia admits to handing terror suspects over to United States

Turkish Weekly, 15 June 2006

Bosnia has admitted that it handed over six terror suspects of Algerian origin to US forces in 2002 without any formal extradition procedure, the Council of Europe said.

The six persons, five of whom had Bosnian citizenship, « had simply been handed over to the custody of US forces despite a decision by the (Bosnian) Supreme Court ordering their immediate release, » the report said.

All six were transferred to the US Guantanamo prison camp on the island of Cuba.

Bosnia-Hercegovina is the only one of the Council’s 46 member states queried by its secretary general that has admitted to violating the European Convention on Human Rights by cooperating with the United States in alleged extra-legal transfers of terror suspects.

The body’s parliamentary assembly last week accused the United States of weaving a « spider’s web » of « disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers — spun with the collaboration or tolerance of the Council of Europe’s member states. »

In reference to the six persons handed over to the US on January 18, 2002, Bosnia’s foreign minister, Mladen Ivanic, acknowledged in a letter that a « formal and legal procedure for extradition was not carried out, instead this was labeled as a ‘handover' ».

The Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia, set up with the Council of Europe, ruled in 2003 that the suspects’ rights had been violated and ordered the Bosnian government to use diplomatic channels in order to « take all possible steps to obtain » the release of the detainees.

The six – Hadz Boudellaa, Saber Lahmar, Boumediene Lakhdar, Mohamed Nechle, Mustafa Ait Idir and Belkasem Bensayah – were under investigation before being handed over to the United States for possible links with the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.

After trying unsuccessfully to expel them to Algeria, Bosnian authorities ceded to an request from the US embassy to hand the suspects over to American forces.