Two men who were deported from the UK to Algeria last month have been arrested, imprisoned and charged with terrorist activities, despite being assured by Algerian officials in Britain they would face no criminal proceedings. One of the men says that while in the custody of Algeria's security police (DRS), he signed a statement under duress without reading its contents, and that he heard the screams of other prisoners being tortured.
SACC members are amongst those who had been supporting the men during their long persecution in this country. We can barely guess what the men have been through since their return to Algeria. They have our deepest sympathy.
Both men withdrew their appeals against deportation because they could no longer bear the strain of indefinite detention. Instead, they chose to take the risk of believing assurances that they would not be prosecuted in Algeria.
One of the men, known as Detainee H, withdrew his appeal against deportation after a British official told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in a statement: "The British government has absolutely no reason to believe that H will be arrested or otherwise detained for a prolonged period of time if deported to Algeria."H was deported to Algeria on 25 January. He was taken into DRS custody on 30 January after reporting to the DRS in Algiers, at their request. He was held incommunicado until the weekend of 10/11 February, when he was allowed to phone his brother. He wasn't able to see a lawyer until 17 February. On that day, he also saw his family for the first time. H's beard was shaved off when he went into prison. H does not report being tortured himself, but SACC understands that he has said that he could hear the screams of others being tortured and that he witnessed a tortured man being taken past his cell. SACC understands that he also heard women's screams and was taken to a shower where a pile of woman's clothes lay.
The second man, Reda Dendani, has been implicated by Mahmoud Meguerba, an intelligence source in the ricin trial, according to information received by Amnesty International. Meguerba, who was not called as a witness in the UK because he was considered unreliable, is reported to have been tortured by the DRS. Reda was given verbal assurances by Algerian officials in that the UK that he was not wanted in Algeria and that, after a brief period of detention on returning there, he would be released
Reda Dendani was formerly known as Detainee Q. His anonymity was lifted at his own request. In a statement dated 24 December 2006 he wrote:
Calling me "Q" was not designed by the Home Office to protect me from the public. It was the opposite in fact. Labeling me like an object concealed the human being I am and facilitated the grip of allegations from the Home Office in the media.
In the same statement he called SIAC's use of closed sessions an "affront to the fundamental justice system." He said "I've stopped resisting my deportation. Better for me to face Algerian authorities - more straightforward than this Chinese torture made in UK."
H and Reda Dendani were previously held without charge or trial in the UK under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. They were released in March 2005 following a ruling by the Law Lords that their detention was unlawful, but were then placed under "control orders" imposed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. In August 2005 they were re-arrested under immigration powers pending deportation on national security grounds.
Before the London Underground bombings in July 2005, the government accepted that Algeria's human rights record meant that sending suspects back there would breach the European convention on human rights, which bans inhuman or degrading treatment or torture. But in August 2005 the Home Office started moves to deport a number of Algerians deemed, on the basis of secret intelligence unusable as evidence in British courts, to be a danger to national security. Britain pledged to hammer out memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Algeria and the other suspects' homelands, guaranteeing that they would not be tortured or mistreated if returned. The government has obtained MoUs with Libya, Jordan and the Lebanon. In common with other human rights organisations, SACC believes these documents aren't worth the paper they are written on. But Britain failed to obtain from Algeria even this minimum token of respect for human rights. Instead, the Home Office seeks to rely on case-by-case assurances for people it wishes to deport to Algeria. The Home Office says: "We are satisfied we can deport terrorist suspects to Algeria without breaching the UK's domestic and international human rights obligations."
Amnesty International says that it "considers that the resort to diplomatic assurances and MoUs is having a profoundly deleterious effect on the fight for the eradication of torture in particular and on the integrity of international human rights law in general.
Amnesty International says it "continues to be profoundly concerned at the UK authorities attempts to deport more than 15 Algerian men to their country of origin at all costs. The organisation considers that these attempts are contrary to the prohibition of sending persons to countries where they face a real risk of serious human rights violations, including torture or other ill-treatment."
SACC calls for a halt to deportations to Algeria. No more lives should be gambled on MoUs, on diplomatic assurances or on any other unenforceable junk promises. Torture is despicable. It's banned under international law. Only an idiot or a crook would trust the word of a country that practices torture.