Tunisia to seek return of citizens held at Gitmo

Tunisia announced its intention Sept. 14 to plead for the return of its remaining citizens being held at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. A Justice Ministry representative, speaking at a conference in Tunis, called for the repatriation of the five Tunisian detainees still being held at the prison and indicated the nation’s intention to send a mission to the US to achieve their release. The conference was organized by Reprieve, a British humanitarian and legal action group that seeks to enforce human rights and due process for prisoners worldwide.

In the past, such groups had been against repatriation due to reports of torture and abusive interrogation upon prisoners’ return to Tunisia under the regime of ousted dictator Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali. However, with the fall of the former regime, Reprieve claims there is no longer a reason to hold the remaining prisoners:

On the night the Tunisian people successfully overthrew Ben Ali’s dictatorship, five Tunisian men had just spent their ninth anniversary of imprisonment in the notorious US naval base. To date, they have had neither charge nor trial. Members of the interim government, international and national human rights activists, lawyers, ex-detainees and family members have all pledged their support for this cause. Today’s conference will examine how this support can be turned into action.

There have been 12 Tunisians imprisoned at the Guantánamo facility since it opened in 2002, two of whom were returned to Tunisia and imprisoned in 2007. The other five released detainees have been extradited to third countries for various reasons.

The continued operation of Guantánamo Bay remains controversial. In January, Human Rights Watch criticized President Barack Obama for failing to shut down the facility altogether. Earlier in January, Obama signed a bill barring the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the US for trial. The legislation authorized funding for defense interests abroad, military construction and national security-related energy programs and barred the use of funds to transfer detainees into the US and limited funds available for transfers to foreign countries. The number of detainees at Guantánamo has been significantly reduced as the administration continues to transfer detainees to a growing list of countries including Germany, Italy, Spain, Maldives, Georgia, Albania, Latvia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Somaliland, Palau, Belgium, Afghanistan and Bermuda.

From Jurist, Sept. 15. Used with permission.