Algerians held without trial in despair, says lawyer
Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, Friday September 30, 2005
An Algerian man due to be deported under the government’s clampdown tried to kill himself in jail believing there was « no hope » left for him, his lawyer said. And another man also facing deportation said the « psychological torture » of detention without trial was worse than the torture he believed he would face in Algeria.
The two men are among 16 Algerians detained by the government at Full Sutton, Long Lartin and Broadmoor jails, in anticipation of deportation. This week, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has been hearing bail applications from some of the men, who may face years in prison awaiting the conclusion of the deportation proceedings.
Those facing deportation include four who were acquitted in the « ricin plot » trial at the Old Bailey in April, and others who were previously detained in Belmarsh until released under control orders after the Lords ruled their detention unlawful.
The detainee known as G, held in Long Lartin prison, tried to hang himself last week after hearing that those who had been acquitted in the ricin trial had also been detained. His lawyer, Gareth Peirce, said he tried to take his life because he felt there was « no hope » for him.
The wife of another prisoner, H, said she feared for her husband’s sanity. « I don’t think he will survive this mentally even though he is an intelligent and stoical person, » she said yesterday. The prisoner H said: « What’s the worst that could happen? That I could be killed? I am being killed now only they are doing it very slowly. It couldn’t be worse than this psychological torture. In Algeria, it would be physical but I would die quickly. »
Ms Peirce said: « The one thing that is unarguable is that these men are terrified for their lives in Algeria. » She said the defendants in the ricin trial had been cleared. « The case against them is repetition of the evidence that was disbelieved by the jury. It’s effectively a second prosecution but this time there is no jury. » The only additional evidence against the men was based on evidence extracted in Algeria under torture. « It is the clearest evidence that torture evidence is embraced by the home secretary here, » she said. « Torture is no longer taboo. »
Britain is engaged in talks with Algeria over the return of deportees and Algeria’s requests for extraditions. Under article three of the European convention on human rights, Britain cannot deport people to where they may be at risk of torture.
An Algerian government spokesman said that those deported would not face torture on their return.
But Amnesty International did not accept Algerian government assurances that deportees would not be harmed. The group’s spokesman said detainees only last year had suffered « chiffon » torture, which involved forced drinking of urine, contaminated water and chemicals, and being kicked in the stomach.
Some exile groups believe conditions have improved for political dissidents but that such people still risk jail and torture.