Geneva - SAM said the file of Yemeni detainees deported from detention Guantánamo to UAE prisons is still in place more than 5 years after the United States authorities decided to close the notorious detention facility, to release those detained after promises to send them to Islamic countries to rehabilitate them, to help them integrate into society, and to open the way for them to obtain jobs, money and marriage.
In a statement issued on Thursday, 24 June 2021, the organization stated that the legal situation concerning Yemenis in the United Arab Emirates, the 18 Yemeni prisoners of Guantanamo who had been deported to the United Arab Emirates were a painful exception, compared with others who had returned to their countries or been hosted by other States, which provided them with a humanitarian environment for integration into societies that respected their rights and provided them with the required support.
SAM noted that the Agreement on Cooperation to Resettle and Improve the Conditions of Guantánamo Detainees between the United States and the Arab Emirates is the same as the Agreement with other countries, according to which the conditions of Yemenis released to other countries and freed and settled in those countries have improved.
Chuck Hagel, who served as U.S. Secretary of Defence from 2013 to 2015, personally signed the release of more than 40 detainees. "We tell the host countries which will accept them, we want these people to return to society where they are productive citizens. That means education, that means rehabilitation. " Source npr Newspaper”
However, the Government of the United Arab Emirates has retracted the implementation of the agreements, in disregard of international, moral and humanitarian norms. The statement published earlier stated that the United Arab Emirates had imprisoned all individuals released from Guantánamo detention, restricted their freedoms, restricted them and deprived them of their most basic human rights to a normal and secure life.
SAM reported that the 18 Yemenis were arrested from Afghanistan and Pakistan after the September 11 attacks, where they were detained inside the United Arab Emirates for over five years, according to their families and lawyers in earlier statements by the Associated Press. The detainees spoke in sporadic telephone calls from several undisclosed locations in the Emirates, including a notorious prison full of torture. They told their families that, despite the poor life in Guantánamo, they wished to return there, and SAM showed that there was a real risk added to the range of violations faced by Yemenis there, that they would be forcibly returned to Yemen, where their families feared they would face worse treatment in the face of ongoing aggression against Yemen and complex security and economic conditions.
SAM spoke of the concerns of the families it had reached out to about the lack of adequate means for them to claim the rights of their relatives because of the difficult material conditions they were experiencing. They also had no knowledge of the legal methods of action and of the organizations that had the competence to communicate with the Emirati authorities and the Yemeni Government, which had not moved effectively to finish the Yemeni file in Yemen for years. In addition, these families fear reactions from government agencies and intelligence services, threats of arrest, disappearance, torture and others if they move.
SAM described the suffering of the families of Yemeni detainees in UAE prisons as extremely complex and a mixture of hope, anticipation and fear for their lives after reports of their situation there were received through very limited contacts from their families. The organization was able to obtain statements from the relatives of Yemeni detainees in the United Arab Emirates who were present in Guantánamo before their deportation. They state that these contacts were interrupted two months ago, and they can no longer communicate with their parents, or check on their health.
Testimony of the victims' families
Ali Ahmed Al – Razhi
Ali 's brother stated in his statement to SAM's team that his 42 - year - old brother "lost his tracks in 2001," and then we found out that he was being held in Guantánamo by a letter from him in 2002. My brother was deported and transferred to the Emirates in 2015. When he was in Guantánamo, he was communicating with us through the messages that the Red Cross was sending to us. We also had a two - hour audio and photo call with him, but this changed after my brother was deported to the Emirates where we communicate with him for five minutes on the phone once a month. ". Ali's brother added that "Recently, after a break of more than seven months, my brother called us before Eid for less than three minutes and called again on Eid for one minute, and after Eid for less than three minutes". He pointed out that "the place of detention or detention is unknown and we are not allowed to speak about any information about the circumstances and place of detention and others, other than personal news, but there is psychological torture which has been inferred from statements and requests that they request and tell us, the situation in which they are in such a way as detention or house arrest." His sister also confirmed that 18 Yemeni 17 detainees and one individual had been under house arrest for more than three years because of his brother's statement during his contact about the conditions of detention and torture.
SAM states from the testimony it gathered that a number of individuals who visited their relatives in the Emirates say the visit was tired and the visit period is one month a year, where they are placed in hotels and accommodation restricted to freedom and not allowed out until they visit every week. Some news is that for one day, some for two hours, visiting in a detention facility, the prisoner meets with strict inspection and other procedures. Some residents said that the cost of the visit was expensive and that travel was too tiring because of the complications imposed by the UAE authorities.
Another testimony from Bashir Nasser Al Marwala
Al Marwala's brother, in a statement to SAM, said 43-year-old Bashir was arrested in 2002 in the Pakistani city of Karachi by the army on charges of being Arab, handed over to US forces and transferred to Bagram Afghan Prison in Kabul, after which he was transferred to Guantanamo. He added: "My brother stayed in American prison for 15 years before he was deported in 2016 to the United Arab Emirates, where the purpose of the deportation was to rehabilitate and integrate like the rest of the prisoners released from other countries, but we were surprised that my brother had moved from prison to prison where we did not know the conditions of his detention, and that communication was almost non-existent, but the information we heard about how the Emirati authorities dealt with the Yemeni detainees raises our fears and worries about our brother's life.
Ayoub Murshid Saleh
SAM referred to an interview by Al Jazeera with the family of one of the detainees, Ayoub Murshid Ali Saleh, on September 10, 2020, which reported that detainees from Guantanamo were suffering from poor conditions, as the family expressed their indignation and regret that communication with their son was not "comforting." The family says the UAE authorities allowed him to talk to his parents three times a month for only 10 minutes at his first time, but for more than five months he has been in contact with him once or twice a month and is not allowed to talk to his parents for more than two minutes. Ayoub's family described their son's situation and said that "we feel through the call that he is very frustrated and surrounded by surveillance."
SAM obtained some details of what Yemeni detainees were being subjected to in UAE prisons from one of the former detainees, saying "We got out in August 2016 of Guantánamo. As soon as we arrived and first got off the plane and before we got on the bus, we were searched by military personnel working with the UAE, and the search was so bad, I can't even explain what happened to us because of the insult. "He added, "Some of my colleagues were wearing more than pants of cold. They pulled them off, and they parked in the buses, and covered our eyes. We were banned from talking, and the treatment was very bad. We asked them for water to drink, but it was disrespectful, and it was almost two hours or more until we arrived in solitary confinement. We sat there for a month, each one by himself. We were asking for water and it was hard to get us. When we were going to the bathroom, we had to take off our clothes and wear shirt given to us to cover ourselves and go according to their orders. "
The former detainee stated, "A month later we were moved to another solitary confinement, and the room was slightly larger than its predecessor, but we were suffering from the same and even more severe ill-treatment. The soldiers there were State Security and the treatment was very severe and very bad. And we were allowed to go to bathroom four times, and the bathroom was out of the room, and the same thing to go to the bathroom had to undress first and wear the shirt to go either in the middle of the night or even when we woke up to the bathroom, we took our clothes off. At the bathroom, the guard yells at you and rushes you out of the bathroom. The treatment was so bad. We stayed three months. We even complained about the bad situation which got some prisoners to take a shit inside the cell. "
The detainee continued the race: "Then, we were moved to a mass block, but it's tiny, with 24 rooms. It's like the wards at Camp Five, and they brought in the former detainees, and after a while they also brought in Saeed, the Russian, Haji Wali and Yassin. "He continues: "They started religious classes for us and brought us two commenters, and it was almost eight or nine months." Then, "We were moved to Al-Razin prison, and everyone had a big room with a TV, a big sitting area, a prayer place and a playground, and we were playing in it, but we were completely collapsed and our mental status ruined, because we didn't know what our fate would be. Some of us were working out to preserve what was left of their mind and their health, but comparing to other prisons the treatment was better, but still they're all notorious prisons. "
"One of the detainees asked one of the officials: What is my fault? I went to Afghanistan and my case with the Americans ended. The official told him, "Shut up! Don’t talk. Another Afghan detainee said he wanted to return to Guantánamo, on which he was responsible: Shut up. He told him: Shut up, I can drag you off your beard without anyone reviewing me, and order the soldiers to put him in solitary. "The former detainee stressed that "there was no clinic, but if the case called for medical intervention, they were carrying the detainee in a car with a back box and the detainees' eyes were blindfolded."
He added: "Before I came out, an official was said to be Abu Afra. I think he was the second or third biggest official in the program. The biggest problem was the lack of cooperation of legal government with us. He intended the Yemeni Embassy on the grounds that there were no papers for the release of Yemeni detainees. "
The detainee concluded by saying: "When I went out to Afghanistan, I was given papers that said go out to the country, and I don't know any details about how I was evacuated. Human rights and media institutions and lawyers must act to help Yemeni detainees in the Emirates, because their issue is thorny, and the government of Yemen does nothing. Detainees suffer day and night from ill treatment. How long will those detainees remain like this? "
Visits are tiring (describes a relative of detainees deported to Emirates to SAM)
My brother left for the Emirates in 2015. We said the beginning of the solution. Guantanamo was better off. At Guantanamo, he was constantly contacted by letters via the Red Cross, voice and photo contact for two hours, and when he was taken to the Emirates, a lawyer said, he would be in rehab for 9 months .Unfortunately, after moving to the United Arab Emirates, the phone call was made every month for five minutes, under surveillance, and they were not allowed to speak about any information about the circumstances and location of his detention. My brother and the rest of the deportees were in the Al - Ain desert outside the city. Every week, we visited my brother in a new detention centre where they apply strict search procedures. They've been in the Emirates for four years, and they're getting worse.
SAM stated that one of the methods of psychological torture used by the Emirati authorities with Yemeni detainees was to authorize Emirati officials to communicate with Yemeni government officials in order to visit them and coordinate with them in order to release them, improve their conditions and integrate them into the Emirati community, but Yemeni officials refuse to cooperate with the Emirati and visit their citizens to see their needs, and some of those responsible have asked the detainees' relatives to contact the Yemeni Government to carry out its duties towards their Yemeni citizens. The Human Rights Organization drew attention to the fact that the United Arab Emirates has banned weekly contacts, which are between 2 and 10 minutes for all people for more than three weeks to the present day.
SAM reached out to a number of deportees to other countries, such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and Montenegro, to make a comparison, and the organization found that the deportees received decent care, and the vast majority were able to meet with their families, and to integrate smoothly into the new society, starting a normal life. One of those who were transferred to the state of Montenegro SAM speaks of full freedom of movement and integration. He travelled to Sudan and met his people. He then started a new life where his family joined him and lived a stable and quiet life. In the Sultanate of Oman which received some 26 former Guantánamo detainees, someone talked to SAM and said: "Thank God we move freely to the border areas, but we must inform them even if something bad happens, may God forbid, so that they can know and inform their group in these areas if anything is needed. “The Government is responsible for housing as well as visits and hospitality at the border and for passing and getting visas for them."
Kazakhstan is a less bad situation than the Emirates
The situation of the deportees to the State of Kazakhstan is not very different from that of the United Arab Emirates. In 2018, three Yemeni and one Tunisian were transferred from Guantánamo Base Prison. A transferred Yemeni, Asim Mustan Al-Khalqi, died four months later. As he was suffering from kidney failure and was unable to get the necessary health care he nedded. The Kazakh authorities did not allow him to hold a funeral to which he was entitled. Only three or four persons were prevented from attending his funeral or praying. Two Yemenis remained in Kazakhstan, without legal residence papers. They are not allowed to work, and they are prohibited from leaving the city, in house arrest. Because of censorship, they are denied a visit to their parents, yet our situation is better than those who went to the Emirates.
Serbia is not without suffering.
Mansour Al-Dhaifi, who is deported from Guantanamo to Serbia, says he has been subjected to numerous harassment in Serbia, where his financial benefits have been stopped more than once, threatened with expulsion from housing and deportation to Yemen, but was attacked by Serbian intelligence personnel and feels constantly monitored. “He adds: "Although I'm currently studying at a private university and I'm about to graduate, I don't know if I'm going to be awarded an undergraduate degree or not because I can't afford to pay the expansive university fees. In an interview with npr newspaper on 21 February 2017 Al- Dhaifi said : "When they brought me to Serbia, they made my life worse. They're killing my dreams completely. It makes my life worse. Not because I love Guantánamo, but my life has gotten worse here. I feel like I'm in another prison. " The journalist who interviewed Al- Dhaifi says, "I came to Serbia to find out why the transfer of former Guantánamo prisoners deemed ready to return to society was so difficult. And immediately I felt the problem. Moments after I spoke to Al- Dhaifi for the first time, the police stopped me and questioned me. Although the Serbian government has agreed to give him a home, it remains uncomfortable with the presence of an accused terrorist living in its capital. "
The officials I spoke to, even the Prime Minister, said that the former detainee in Belgrade was adapting well. But after our first interview, my guest disappeared. For two days he didn't answer his phone or door. Then he showed up at the hotel where I was staying, and he looked horrified, and there was a new bruise on his head. He was sure he was being followed and that we were being watched in the hotel lobby, so we went to my room to talk. He told me that the day after our first interview, many Serbian men wearing masks broke into his apartment and put him on the ground. While others were searching his apartment, the man holding him yelled at him, saying things like: "If you want to stay here, you have to shut your mouth. You're lying. You're playing. "
Al- Dhaifi said he was offended, and he collapsed telling the story. He said: "they told me simply to shut my mouth and that I was lying. “If you don't stay here, we'll take you somewhere you don't like.” "I ask to be sent to another country where I can start my life. That's what I want, to start a family, finish college and live as a normal person. That's what I want in my life. Not anymore, "he said. "A simple dream. I hope to leave this place and go where I can start my life, and that's my hope. Where I can get some support and to any country - any other country where I can at least make something out of my life, move on with my life. That’s what I want.”
Fears of Return
On another front, SAM expressed concerns about the news that Yemeni detainees in the Emirates could be deported to Yemen, particularly following statements to a high - ranking Yemeni government official that "plans are waiting security arrangements." A State Department official indicated that the US Government was aware of this.
There are huge and serious concerns the deportees are talking about if they return. Assassination by other groups, imprisonment, extortion, torture and enforced disappearance, as well as the difficulty of integrating with the new reality in the absence of a state on the ground, the proliferation of militant armed groups. “In his statement to SAM Al- Dhaifi added: “The Houthi broke into his house in Rimah, insulted his 70 year -old father and assaulted him, threatened to rape his sister, and his brother is a forcibly disappeared from his village. It's all because of some posts on social media, where he eventually stopped after his father asked him to stop because of the harm they suffered.
Lawyer Abdurrahman Barman, a lawyer following the file of detainees, President of the American Centre for Justice. "Resettlement of Guantánamo detainees is an American idea to overcome the legal, moral and human right impasse in which they have signed secret agreements with certain States without informing detainees or their lawyers, with a view to transferring detainees to these States and ensuring their rehabilitation and integration into society and public life.” He added: "The success and failure of the integration is due to the nature of the political system, the commitment to human rights principles and the historical background, such as Germany and France," some of which are due to the credibility of States and their desire to uphold the humanitarian principle "such as the Sultanate of Oman"
For their part, United Nations legal experts have described the anticipated repatriation of detainees as "Forced return," warning that such violations constitute a flagrant attack on international law, stressing that the detainees will be destined for a poor Arab State devastated by a severe civil war over the past six years, where torture and arbitrary detention are widespread in secret and official prison networks run by different factions which control different areas of the country.
SAM concluded in its present paper that the tragic situation of 18 Yemenis must be urgently terminated without any conditions, and that the United Arab Emirates authorities must assume their legal and contractual obligations with the United States of America to integrate and resettle those Yemenis in the Emirates or in any country of their choice, and to ensure that they are empowered by the fundamental rights guaranteed to them by international law through its various conventions. The State of the United Arab Emirates should allow such persons to move and exercise their lives normally without any restrictions.
SAM concluded by calling on the international community, in particular the United States of America, to act and press the United Arab Emirates to implement the commitment it has signed to integrate Yemenis into United Arab Emirates society and to work to ensure the implementation of that agreement by releasing all detainees and allowing them to start to live their lives without any conditions, to start implementing the integration programme under the supervision of the United Arab Emirates and to stop all forms of physical and psychological distress and torture of Yemenis detained by the authorities of the United Arab Emirates.