As one of his first acts in office, President Obama issued an executive order committing to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year. Almost two years later, unnamed administration officials are predicting that the prison will remain open “for the foreseeable future.” This means that men like Djamel Ameziane will remain trapped there for the foreseeable future as well.
Ameziane was sold into American custody by bounty hunters on Afghanistan’s Pakistani border. A Berber from Algeria’s troubled Kabylie region, Ameziane spent several years in Europe and Canada searching for better opportunities. When his Canadian visa expired, he sought out a quiet and anonymous life in Afghanistan, landing there at precisely the wrong time. There is no credible evidence Ameziane ever took up arms or intended to harm the United States. But he cannot return to Algeria, a country he left nearly two decades ago, because his Guantanamo pedigree will endanger him in a state paranoid about Islamic insurgency. Meanwhile, American politicians have made sure that no Guantanamo prisoners will ever set foot on U.S. soil. So Ameziane will languish in Guantanamo until a third country will accept him.
Many of the 173 other men still at Guantanamo face a similar dilemma. Complicating matters needlessly is the U.S. refusal to allow even a single Guantanamo prisoner within its borders. As the prison lurches toward its tenth year, human rights organizations must commit themselves to ending its abuses. A first step is resolving the cases of Djamel Ameziane and so many others who remain in a brutal purgatory sanctioned by the same administration that promised, on January 22, 2009, to end this suffering and injustice.
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