International seminar on detainees at GuantanamoDemands America to end violations against detainees [Archives:2004/729/Reportage]

April 15 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
At the conclusion of the International Seminar on Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, organized jointly by Amnesty International and the National Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) and held on 10-11 April at the Taj Sheba Hotel, Sana'a, the participants condemned the violations being committed against the detainees and issued the following statement.

Yemen: End human rights scandal in Guantanamo and other places
“I'm in a cage like an animal.
No one asked me am I human or not”
A former detainee of Guantanamo Bay
Sana'a- Yemen – Governments must stop undermining rights they have promised to defend said Amnesty International on Sunday at the conclusion of a two-day conference on the impact of the illegal detention of the Guantanamo detainees and other detainees held after September 11 in the Gulf region.
“The situation at Guantanamo Bay is a major human rights scandal that has widespread implications for the whole world,” said Javier Zuniga, Senior Director at Amnesty International. “This policy promotes a world in which arbitrary and unchallengeable detentions become acceptable.”
The harsh conditions of detention of the Guantanamo Bay detainees have had far reaching consequences fro their communities and families, including voiceless women and children, whose rights must also be recognized and respected, participants said. Similarly, the continuing arbitrary and illegal detentions of thousands of persons in many countries in the Gulf represents a fundamental challenge to the rule of law and constitutes a betrayal of fundamental human rights principles.
The conference is the first to gather relatives of detainees in the Gulf, human rights organizations, lawyers from throughout the Middle East and around the world, activists and members of civil society institutions. It was organized jointly by Amnesty International and the National Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) in Yemen on 10-11 April.
“Progress and civilization must not be measured only by scientific, technological and military progress. They must be measured by the human conscience, the degree of disapproval of human rights violations and by what we can do to bring human sufferings to an end,” said Amat al-Alim al-Soswa, Yemen's Minister of Human Rights, in her opening speech at the conference on Saturday.
“Stripping detainees of access to the due process of law or even their fundamental entitlement to the most basic human rights standards constitutes an unprecedented human rights scandal,” a document released at the end of the conference said. “As human rights defenders, it is our most central belief that every woman, man, and child has inherent rights that belong to them as human beings.”
The document entitled the “Sana'a Appeal” criticized the abuse generated by sweeping security measures adopted by many governments after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, and which amounted to “a human rights crisis that poses a threat to the people of the world.”
The appeal called on the governments of the United States and the Gulf region to end the legal limbo of all the detainees, including those held in undisclosed locations, and to grant them full access to lawyers, doctors, families and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Governments must ensure that all those held are charged and given fair trials or released They must ensure that detainees are treated humanely and halt the forcible return of foreign nationals to countries where they would face serious human rights violations,” the appeal said.
Participants also called on governments to ensure strict compliance with human rights standards in any security cooperation between states and by all security training organizations granted access to detainees and officials in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base, and all undisclosed locations.
“The detention of individuals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram, Afghanistan, without regard to due process is a major threat to all our freedoms,” said Terry Waite, human rights activist and former hostage. “International human rights have been hard-won across the years. I thank God for organizations such as Amnesty International who refuse to allow them to be lost at this point in our global history.”
The international community must also ensure that the United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms urgently address the abrogation of fundamental norms in the detention and treatment of persons in Guanatanamo Bay, Bagram Air Base and other undisclosed locations, urged the appeal.
Non-governmental organizations and civil society must press their governments to review security legislation against the standards of international human rights law and to seek respect for the fundamental human rights of nations of their own country held in Guantanamo Bay, and to support and disseminate the appeal.
They are also urged to develop initiatives to educate the public regarding human rights obligations and create and support a mechanism for lawyers and jurists in the region to share information and coordinate efforts on legal appeals for detainees.
“We, the families, honestly need you,” said Khaled al-Odah whose son Fawzi al-Odah has been detained in Guantanamo for the past two years. “Organizing such conferences will keep this case alive in the conscience of the world community.”
The seminar was attended by a number of civil society organizations, the competent related authorities involved in human rights and some families of detainees.