Bosnia confirms illegal handover of Algerians

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Monday, 19 June 2006: 09.48 CET) ‘ Bosnia and Herzegovina formally has acknowledged to the Council of Europe that it allowed US forces to seize six Algerian-born men and transfer them to Guantanamo even after a local court acquitted them due to lack of evidence.

Bosnia is the only one of the council’s 46 members to acknowledge it had breached the European Convention on Human Rights by participating in an extrajudicial seizure of individuals by the US.

The Council of Europe’s human rights committee has accused more than 20 countries of colluding with the CIA’s controversial “extraordinary rendition flights” and secret prisons.

On 7 June, the committee released a report saying that “European states played an active or passive role in the network run by the CIA and were not unwitting victims of the operation.’

The report named Poland and Romania for running secret CIA prison. It also said Germany, Turkey, Spain, and Cyprus were “staging points” for illegal CIA rendition flights. Ireland, Britain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy were named as being “stopovers” for flights involving the illegal transfer of detainees. The report named Sweden, Bosnia, Britain, Macedonia, Germany, and Turkey in connection to illegal CIA activities in relation to specific individual cases.

The US has conceded that some terror suspects have been flown overseas for interrogation, but that the host countries had guaranteed they would not be tortured.

Last month, EU investigators said they believed 30 to 50 people had been handed over by the US since the 11 September 2001 attacks on Washington and New York. In April, a parliamentary report said the CIA ran more than 1,000 secret flights in and out of Europe since 2001.

In April last year, lawyers for six Algerian men arrested in Bosnia and detained at the US Guantanamo Bay prison camp as “enemy combatants” sued the US government, claiming that their clients have been abused and tortured during their detainment.

All six men have Bosnian citizenship.

The six Algerians were accused in late 2001 of planning an attack against the US and British embassies in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. In January 2002, a Bosnian court cleared them of all charges, citing lack of evidence. But just hours before releasing them from custody, Bosnian authorities were pressured to hand them over to US authorities. The US then transferred them to Guantanamo.

Unlike other Guantanamo detainees, the case of the “Algerian Group” is unique in that the six were not captured in combat in Afghanistan.

In February last year, their wives organized protests in Sarajevo, calling on the Bosnian authorities to demand their release from Guantanamo.

In March last year, Bosnian authorities sent an official request to the US for the release of the six men, but US authorities rejected the request. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US still considered the men potential security threats.

All six Algerian men fought on the Bosnian Muslim side in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. After the war, they married Bosnian women, gained Bosnian citizenship, and worked for Muslim humanitarian organizations.