Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
8.00pm Tuesday 20 June, for immediate release
SACC is becoming increasingly concerned over the welfare of detainees « V » and « I », who were deported to Algeria on Friday and Saturday. We have not heard from the men since they arrived in Algeria. In the last few hours, Amnesty International has issued an action alert expressing concern at the situation and asking people to contact the President, Justice Minister and Foreign Minister of Algeria calling on them to ensure that the men are treated humanely, to allow the men to contact their families immediately and to provide the men with any medical attention they require.
Ann, a member of our campaign who has been in contact with Detainee « I » for some time, issued the following statement today.
My Algerian friends, Detainee V and Detainee I, returned to Algeria on Friday and Saturday. They decided to return to their own country out of despair. The men were arrested in August and September last year and told they would be deported because they posed a threat to national security. They lost all hope and the stress of imprisonment on them and their families became unbearable for them. They have watched many of their fellow detainees go mad, with some resorting to attempts at suicide, under the strain of years of indefinite detention, house arrest and control orders. Most of their wives suffer clinical depression due to the loss of their husbands and the distress of their children with the continual restrictions placed upon them by the Home Office. The British government has been trying to negotiate a deal whereby Algeria would promise not to ill-treat any deported terrorism suspects and an agreement was “initialled” between the two countries on 6 June. This agreement will be signed when President Bouteflika meets Prime Minister Blair in London in July.
I corresponded and spoke often to Detainee I. Like many of the men, he has never been charged with terrorist offences in this country. He said while held in Long Lartin, “We are treated so badly without proper justification whatsoever and are under atrocious conditions”. He last called me on Saturday morning before his deportation and promised me that he would call me that evening. Distressingly, I have had no contact with him since.
Detainee V was acquitted of the ricin plot trial or as he says « the NO ricin case ». Lawyer Gareth Peirce said at the time of his re-arrest to be deported under Immigration powers in September, 2005, “ Algeria feels free to operate entirely outside any international constraints on grotesque actions towards its own citizens. In the world league table of torturers it frequently heads the list”. With no news of my friends after four days in Algeria, Gareth’s words are ringing in my ears.
The deportation of these men was not voluntary. They were coerced into dropping their appeal against deportation through prolonged psychological torture. Anyone who doubts that this term is appropriate need only observe the effect that indefinite detention, house arrest and control orders have had on the mental health of the men treated in this way.
The fact that the men have finally « chosen » to return to Algeria proves only that people placed under intolerable pressure will in the end jump into the fire in order to get a moment’s respite from the frying pan. Torture produces junk intelligence and junk decisions, and our country should have no part in it.
The dangers facing the men in Algeria are real and serious. In a letter to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April this year, Amnesty International said:
« …torture and other ill-treatment remain both systematic and widespread in cases of arrests linked to alleged terrorist activity. Many of these arrests are carried out by the DRS and, while fewer than during the height of the violence of former years, the DRS remains formidably powerful. People detained by the DRS are systematically held in secret detention and denied any contact with the outside world, often for prolonged periods – in conditions which facilitate torture and other ill-treatment.
« Commenting on the deportation of Mr ‘I’, a Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The British government is grateful to the Algerian authorities for their cooperation in facilitating the deportation of this individual.’ The spokeswoman added ‘This is an indication of our shared commitment in the fight against terrorism and of the warm relationship between our two countries.’
SACC finds it impossible to understand how our country can express itself in these terms about a country engaged in the kind of abuses described by Amnesty International. We think this is sending entirely the wrong signal to the Algerian authorities.
No confidence can be placed in the agreements reached between Britain and Algeria on 6 June. In a report on « extraordinary rendition » release last week, Amnesty International documents the case of Ahmed Hussein Mustafa Kamil Agiza and Mohammed El Zari, deported from Sweden to Egypt in December 2001. The Swedish government said that it had sought diplomatic assurances from the Egyptian government that the men would not be tortured, would receive a fair trial and would not be sentenced to death. Both men that they were in fact tortured or otherwise ill-treated in Egypt. Mohammed El Zari was held in prison in Cairo until October 2003 without ever having been charged with a crime. Ahmed Agiza was convicted in April 2004 by a military court following a trial that cannot possibly be described as fair. Sweden’s Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution has concluded that the Swedish government should not have accepted the Egyptian authorities’ diplomatic assurances, and that therefore it should not have expelled the two men. We cannot imagine why Britain’s deal with Algeria should be regarded as any more reliable than Sweden’s deal with Egypt.
We call on the British government to exert itself to ensure that the detainees « I » and « V » are not tortured, subjected to an unfair trial, detained without trial, put at risk of attack by extra-governmental groups or otherwise ill-treated in Algeria. And we call on the government to abandon its plans to continue with further deportations to Algeria. The men threatened with deportation should either be allowed to resume their lives freely in this country, or else charged with a recognisable criminal offence and tried fairly and openly in a British court.
SACC is supporting a series of vigils against rendition and torture that will be held at airports around Britain on Saturday 24 June.
For more information contact Richard Haley 07719822164 [email protected]
More details about the vigils against extraordinary rendition at www.sacc.org.uk/rendition/