Media Release
For Immediate Release
22 October 2008
Canada urged to offer refugee resettlement to detainee at Guantanamo

Human rights groups today urged Canada to offer refugee resettlement without delay to Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian who has been unlawfully detained for more than six years at Guantanamo and who has strong ties to Canada.  The Anglican Diocese of Montreal has applied to resettle Mr. Ameziane through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

“The refugee sponsorship of Djamel Ameziane is part of the church’s mission of justice and compassion in the world,” said The Right Reverend Barry B. Clarke, Anglican Bishop of Montreal.  “Having read what Djamel has suffered and the risk he would face if returned to Algeria, I am convinced that sponsoring him is the right thing to do.”

The sponsorship is supported by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, who call on the Canadian government to process Mr. Ameziane’s case on an urgent basis, given his ongoing arbitrary detention at Guantanamo.

“Canada can and should resettle Mr. Ameziane on an urgent basis, in order to free him from continued arbitrary imprisonment,” said Janet Dench, Executive Director of the Canadian Council for Refugees.  “Canadian law recognizes that refugees at risk of violence, torture and arbitrary imprisonment are in urgent need of protection: this is clearly Mr. Ameziane’s case.”

Mr. Ameziane was sent to Guantanamo after he was sold to the U.S. by bounty hunters in 2001.  He has been imprisoned there without charge or a fair hearing for more than six and a half years.  He has been subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment during his imprisonment, and was held in solitary confinement in a small windowless cell for over a year.  He cannot be returned to Algeria because of a risk of serious human rights violations, based on the stigma of having been suspected of terrorism related activities and detained in Guantanamo.

“Amnesty International is calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and for lawful solutions to be found for all the detainees,” said Anne Sainte-Marie, Amnesty International. “It is imperative that countries such as Canada be a part of the solution.  Mr. Ameziane should be immediately released from detention and provided with protection in Canada.”

Canada is the most appropriate country of resettlement for Mr. Ameziane because he previously lived and worked in Montreal for five years.  He also has a brother in Canada.

“After seven long years of unjustified detention, we – I, his brother, his entire family, and his friends – are impatient to have him back with us,” said Mr. Ameziane’s brother. “Djamel, who is so precious to us, has never known what violence is in his whole life. He has never even hurt a fly. Unfortunately, bad luck put him on a path where people sold him for a few dollars. We so dearly hope that he is freed and finds his dignity again as a man who is very respectful of others.”

Mr. Ameziane has never been alleged by the U.S. government to have engaged in any acts of terrorism or hostilities.

“Mr. Ameziane left Algeria 16 years ago in search of a safe haven and a better life,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  “In conditions at Guantanamo that would break most of us, he remains hopeful of someday having the chance to build that life in Canada.”

For further information, see Backgrounder and profile of Djamel Ameziane. See also page with more information on Djamel Ameziane.

Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees, 514-277-7223 ext. 1, 514-476-3971 (cell),
Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada:  416-363-9933 ext. 32, 416-904-7158 (cell)
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6449,; Nell McGarity, Glover Park Group, 202-292-6973
Jennifer Daskal, Human Rights Watch, 202-612-4349, 202-365-3758 (cell),