A federal judge in Washington has taken the unprecedented step of blocking US plans to turn over a Guantanamo terrorism detainee to his home government in Tunisia. Judge Gladys Kessler of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, the federal jurisdiction for the US capital, yesterday ordered the US to halt the transfer of Mohammed Abdul Rahman to his native Tunisia.
Judge Kessler said Abdul Rahman, who has a heart condition, was convicted in absentia in Tunisia, sentenced to 20 years in prison and allegedly would face torture there, demonstrating “the devastating and irreparable harm he is likely to face if transferred.”
Judge Kessler said that Abdul Rahman had asked to remain at Guantanamo, and claimed that transferring him to Tunisia would amount to a death sentence.
“It would be a profound miscarriage of justice,” said Judge Kessler, if she allowed the government to return him to Tunisia.
Abdul Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and allegedly handed over for a bounty, was cleared for transfer after a military panel heard his case in 2005. He is among a significant group of detainees who would prefer to remain in US custody over returning to potentially brutal regimes at home.
Two Tunisians already sent home from Guantanamo have already reported through their lawyers having been abused and tortured. Officials at the Tunisian Embassy were not available for comment, an employee in the ambassador’s office said. Tunisia has denied Abdul Rahman’s claims that it practices torture.
However, a report by the US State Department published earlier this year said the Tunisian government continued “to commit serious human rights abuses.”
Citing human rights groups, the report said the Tunisian security forces used sleep deprivation, electric shocks, submersion of the head in water, beatings and cigarette burns.
One of Abdul Rahman’s lawyers praised the ruling, which he said was the first time the courts had acted to control the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. “The executive has now been told it cannot bury its Guantanamo mistakes in Third World prisons,” Joshua Denbeaux told the Associated Press.
“Our country should honor these treaties that prevent torture, and block the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to a place where they may be subjected to torture,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We praise the judge’s decision to uphold these values of protecting human rights because our country has been long time accused of transferring detainees to countries where human rights violations are known.”(MORE)