Rules: made to be broken

IssueMarch - June 2002
News by Sian Jones

While international attention is focused on prisoners transferred by US from Afghanistan to Camp X-Ray, elsewhere in the world the US government is using peace-keeping forces to arrest, unlawfully detain, and in some cases effectively kidnap, people.

After encouraging states such as Bosnia-Herzegovina to adopt international human rights standards, there is a certain irony in the US acting in such clear violation of both domestic legal systems and of those same international human rights standards.

In the early hours of 18 January 2002 six Algerian men, due to be released from investigative detention by the Bosnian Federation Supreme Court were transferred to US custody, apparently to stand trial in connection with their alleged participation in “international terrorism”.

The men are thought to have been transferred to Camp X-ray at Guantantamo Bay, possibly to face unfair trials before the newly established special military commissions and risk being sentenced to death. As we went to press, their families in Bosnia had still not heard from them.

Following a report from the US Embassy in Sarajevo, the six were arrested in early October 2001 by Bosnia's Federation police forces on suspicion of participating in the planning of an attack on the embassy. An investigation against them was opened on 30 October 2001 by the Federation Supreme Court investigative judge, but the court found no evidence to substantiate the allegations, and was refused access to intelligence - which according to US sources contained wiretapped telephone conversations between the accused and a high ranking al-Qaeda member.

Apparently the USA had made no official request to the Federation authorities for the extradition of the men. In view of the decision by the Bosnia-Herzegovina Human Rights Chamber that four of them should not be transferred into US custody, they were effectively illegally arrested by US security forces stationed in Bosnia as part of the SFOR international peace-keeping forces.

Amnesty International has protested to the US Ambassador to Bosnia and is monitoring the case.

Topics: Human rights