MIAMI (AP) — An Algerian man filed a claim Wednesday with an international human rights body seeking compensation from the U.S. government for the nearly 12 years he was held without charge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Djamel Ameziane urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to grant him reparations and compensation for physical and psychological abuse that he says he suffered while in U.S. custody and for his failure to get a job since being sent home in December 2013 because of the stigma of being held at Guantanamo.
Wells Dixon, one of Ameziane's lawyers, said the 48-year-old makes no specific damage claim but he should receive "lifetime financial support and medical care" for what he has been through. At a minimum, the U.S. should return several thousand dollars seized from him when he was captured, Dixon said.
"Mr. Ameziane is one step away from homelessness right now in Algeria," said Dixon, of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. "He is relying on the charity of his family, and is unable to work or to find a job, and that's due to having been in Guantanamo for more than a decade."
U.S. courts have rejected similar claims from former detainees in the past, prompting some to appeal to international bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the human rights body of the Organization of American States, has called on the U.S. to close the Guantanamo detention center, where the U.S. now holds 114 men, most without charge.
Ameziane has been seeking the intervention of the commission since 2007, initially to compel the U.S. government to allow him to challenge his detention in court and then to prevent his being repatriated to Algeria, where he feared persecution from the government as a member of the Berber ethnic minority. He wanted instead to be sent to Luxembourg, which had agreed to accept him, according to his lawyers.
The government has not responded to his claim for compensation but believes the men held at Guantanamo were lawfully detained under U.S. and international law, said Ian Moss, a spokesman for the State Department on Guantanamo issues. "Under the laws of war, the United States has no obligation to provide them compensation for their detention," he said.
Ameziane left Algeria in 1992 to escape the civil war there, his lawyers said, and eventually made his way to Canada. He was denied asylum and went to Afghanistan because he had few other options, they said.
He was captured at the Pakistan border fleeing the fighting and turned over to U.S. forces like many other foreigners who ended up at Guantanamo. The U.S. determined as early as December 2008 that there was no longer any reason to hold him but the fight over where to send him stalled his repatriation as hundreds of other prisoners were released.
While at Guantanamo, Ameziane developed rheumatism and problems with his eyesight that still bother him and he remains under judicial supervision by Algerian authorities even though he was detained for only 10 days upon his arrival, Dixon said.
U.S. authorities have long denied mistreating prisoners at the U.S. base in Cuba, but Ameziane said in a statement released by his lawyers that he was physically abused and denied basic rights while in custody.
"The time I spent at Guantanamo was the most difficult time of my life," he said.