Ils sont belges tous les deux. Mais pas que, puisque Ali Aarass est aussi marocain et que Bahar Kimyongür est aussi turc. Ils ont donc deux nationalités. Pour beaucoup, cette bigamie citoyenne est une source de problèmes. Attaché à la citoyenneté de résidence (= on a des droits là où on vit), il ne m’a jamais semblé indispensable, quand on s’intéresse à un autre pays, fut-il celui de ses origines, d’en posséder le passeport. Mais surtout, ce qui est insupportable, c’est de ne pas avoir le choix et de se retrouver « génétiquement » le sujet d’un État, soumis à son Souverain et à son statut personnel rétrograde, contre son gré et sans pouvoir y échapper. Et que cette « nationalité contrainte » soit entérinée par le droit international, ou du moins par la lecture que certains en font. Comme Didier Reynders, notre ministre des Affaires étrangères.
À la suite d’une longue saga judiciaire, Ali Aarass est aujourd’hui détenu dans la prison de Salé-Rabat, dans un pays où il n’a jamais vécu. La Belgique lui refuse obstinément l’assistance consulaire, au nom de ce principe « de droit international » que les Belgo-Marocains sont seulement marocains au Maroc (et seulement belges en Belgique) et qu’on ne peut donc rien pour eux là-bas. Que les Belgo-Marocains dont il est question soient souvent marocains contre leur gré ne trouble pas notre ministre.
Autre principe de droit international : on n’extrade pas ses nationaux. Ali Aarass a été extradé en 2010 à la suite de son arrestation en Espagne en 2008. Vers le Maroc et dans l’indifférence de la Belgique, qui ne voulait pas faire obstacle à la volonté de la police de Mohamed VI d’en faire un terroriste. Avec Bahar Kimyongür, la complaisance s’est muée en complicité puisqu’en 2006, un véritable traquenard a été organisé par l’entourage de Laurette Onkelinx, alors ministre de la Justice, pour que la police néerlandaise arrête le ressortissant belgo-turc lors d’une escapade aux Pays-Bas en vue de son extradition vers la Turquie. Mais, contrairement aux autorités espagnoles vis-à-vis d’Ali Aarass, la Justice néerlandaise ne se prêta pas à ce petit jeu. Bahar Kimyongür est aujourd’hui assigné en résidence en Italie, après avoir été intercepté en Espagne, toujours sous le coup du même mandat d’arrêt international lancé par la Turquie et que la Belgique n’arrive pas à casser. Pour autant qu’elle essaie… 
Dans ces deux cas, les autorités belges se sont prêtées à des manœuvres douteuses pour faire plaisir à des États qui ne sont ni l’un ni l’autre des modèles en matière de respect des droits fondamentaux. Si j’y reviens aujourd’hui, c’est parce que la Belgique célèbre en ce moment les 50 ans de la convention d’immigration belgo-marocaine, comme elle le fera dans quelques mois pour la convention belgo-turque. Après 50 ans, il est bien temps de reconnaître que les citoyens issus de ces deux grandes immigrations sont des Belges à 100% et qu’il faut donc cesser de sous-traiter systématiquement leur sort à des pays d’origine qui s’octroient le droit régalien de régenter leurs vies, comme on s’apprête encore à le faire avec une énième réforme de l’exécutif des musulmans de Belgique remis sous la coupe de l’« islam des ambassades ».
Samedi 14 décembre 2013 de 18 à 21 heures
Pianofabriek, Rue du Fort / Fortstraat 35, 1060 Saint-Gilles,
A l’occasion du troisième anniversaire de l’extradition d’Ali Aarrass par l’Espagne vers le Maroc, le 14 décembre 2010, la Campagne Free Ali Aarrass vous invite à une soirée exceptionnelle de rencontres, de témoignages et d’analyse sur l’extradition d’Ali Aarrass, de Nizar Trabelsi, de Talha Ahsan et de Hicham Bouhali Zrouil.
Que se passe-t-il en Europe ?
Depuis que la guerre mondiale antiterroriste a commencé il y a plus de dix ans, les pratiques de bannissement sont-elles de retour en Europe ?
Les pratiques d’enlèvement et de kidnapping de suspects de terrorisme par la CIA reçoivent-elles dès à présent une couverture légale de la part des pays européens ?
Panel des familles :
Farida Aarrass, sœur d’Ali Aarrass, Belgo-marocain, extradé au Maroc par l’Espagne le 14 décembre 2010, sans protestation de la Belgique, après avoir été innocenté par l’Espagne et contre la demande du Conseil pour les droits de l’homme de l’ONU de ne pas l’extrader pour risque de torture. Torturé au Maroc, condamné à 12 ans de prison, il se trouve actuellement dans la prison de Salé II,ville de Salé, Rabat, Maroc.
Oum Maryam, épouse de Nizar Trabelsi, Tunisien, extradé aux États-Unis par la Belgique le 3 octobre 2013, après qu’il avait fini sa peine de 10 ans de prison. La Belgique a refusé d’attendre et de se soumettre à la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme, violant ainsi la Convention. En attendant son procès, il se trouve en isolement à la prison de Stafford, Virginie, USA.
Hamja Ahsan, frère de Talha Ahsan, poète et traducteur britannique, né à Londres, extradé le 4 octobre 2012 par la Grande-Bretagne aux États-Unis. Arrêté à son domicile à Londres, le 19 juillet 2006 à la demande des États-Unis dans le cadre de la US-UK Extradition Act 2003, il y est resté incarcéré sans procès jusqu’à son extradition en 2012. Depuis un an, il attend son procès en isolement dans la prison Northern Correctional Institution, Supermax state prison, Somers, Connecticut, USA.
Ahmed Bouhali Zriouil, père de Hicham Bouhali Zriouil, Belgo-marocain, arrête en Syrie après son retour de l’Afghanistan. Il a été extradé non vers Belgique, son pays natal, mais au Maroc, sans protestation de la Belgique. Condamné à 20 ans de prison, il se trouve depuis juin 2012 dans la prison de Tiflit, ville de Tiflit, Maroc
Panel des avocats :
Marc Nève, membre et ancien vice président du Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants (Conseil de l’Europe), pendant 10 ans l’avocat de Nizar Trabelsi, membre du Syndicat des Avocats pour la Démocratie (SAD).
Luk Vervaet, Association des Familles & Ami(e)s des Prisonniers.
Zaterdag 14 december, 2013 van 18 tot 21 uur
Pianofabriek , Rue du Fort / Fortstraat 35 , 1060 Sint-Gillis ,
Ter gelegenheid van de derde verjaardag van de uitlevering van Ali Aarrass door Spanje naar Marokko op 14 december 2010, nodigt de Campagne Free Ali Aarrass u uit op een uitzonderlijke conferentie met getuigenissen en analyse over de uitlevering van Ali Aarrass, Nizar Trabelsi,Talha Ahsan en Hicham Bouhali Zrouil.
Wat is er aan de hand in Europa ?
Is de praktijk van de verbanning terug ?
Krijgen de illegale praktijken van opsluiting en ontvoering van terreurverdachten door de CIA vanaf nu een een legale dekmantel vanwege de Europese landen ?
Panel van de families :
Farida Aarrass, zus van Ali Aarrass, Belgisch – Marokkaanse nationaliteit, uitgeleverd aan Marokko door Spanje op 14 december 2010, zonder protest van België. Zijn uitlevering vond plaats nadat het Spaanse gerecht geen grond voor vervolging van Ali had gevonden, en nadat de Raad voor de mensenrechten van de UNO gevraagd had aan Spanje om Ali niet uit te leveren, gezien het risico op foltering. Na zijn uitlevering werd Ali gemarteld in Marokko en veroordeeld tot 12 jaar gevangenisstraf. Hij bevindt zich momenteel in de gevangenis van Salé II, (Salé, Rabat, Marokko).
Oum Maryam, de vrouw van Nizar Trabelsi, Tunesische nationaliteit, door België uitgeleverd aan de Verenigde Staten op 3 oktober 2013, nadat hij zijn gevangenisstraf van 10 jaar tot de laatste dag had uitgezeten in België. België aanvaardde het uitleveringsverzoek van de VS en weigerde te wachten op het vonnis van het Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens, dat de uitlevering had opgeschort. België schond op die manier doelbewust de Conventie van de Rechten van de Mens. In afwachting van zijn proces in de VS zit Nizar Trabelsi in eenzame opsluiting in de gevangenis van Stafford , Virginia , USA .
Hamja Ahsan, broer Talha Ahsan, Britse dichter en vertaler, geboren in Londen , uitgeleverd 4 oktober 2012 door Groot-Brittannië aan de Verenigde Staten. Gearresteerd in Londen op 19 juli 2006 op verzoek van de Verenigde Staten onder de Amerikaans-Britse Uitleveringswet van 2003, bleef Talha daar opgesloten zonder proces tot aan zijn uitlevering in 2012 . Sinds zijn uitlevering zit hij sinds een jaar, in eenzame opsluiting in de gevangenis Nord Correctional Institution, Somers , Connecticut , USA, in afwachting van zijn proces.
Ahmed Bouhali Zriouil, vader van Hicham Bouhali Zriouil, Belgisch – Marokkaanse nationaliteit, gearresteerd in Syrië na zijn terugkeer uit Afghanistan. Hij werd niet uitgeleverd aan België, zijn geboorteland, maar aan Marokko, zonder enig protest van België. Veroordeeld tot 20 jaar gevangenisstraf zit hij in de gevangenis van Tiflit, Marokko, sinds juni 2012.
Panel van advocaten :
Marc Neve, lid en voormalig vice-president van het Europees Comite tegen foltering en onmenselijke en vernederende behandeling (CPT), gedurende 10 jaar de advocaat van Nizar Trabelsi, lid van de Vakbond van Advocaten voor de democratie ( SAD ) .
Dounia Alamat, advocaat van Ali Aarrass, gespecialiseerd in mensenrechten, secretaris van de Vakbond van Advocaten voor de Democratie ( SAD ).
Chair/ Moderator :
On the 17th June 2013, the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) and the London Friends of Ali Aarrass held the UK premiere of the new documentary by Moroccan playwright and film-maker, Mohamed Ouachen, titled ‘Ali Aarrass pour l’exemple’ (sub-titled in English), at King’s College London. The film documents the story of a Belgian dual national extradited from Spain to Morocco where he was tortured and sentenced to fifteen years in prison at a mockery of a trial. This case has parallels with the case of British Muslim Talha Ahsan, and the documentary ‘Extradition’ by Turab Shah, about the plight of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, extradited in 2012 to a US supermax prison in Connecticut, which was also screened.
Panellists at the event included: Victoria Brittain (former associate foreign editor of The Guardian Newspaper), Farida Aarrass (sister of Ali Aarrass), Luk Vervaet (initiator of Free Ali campaign and prison teacher fighting work ban), Hamja Ahsan (brother of Talha Ahsan), and Arun Kundnani (author of, ‘The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic War on Terror’ – forthcoming from Verso Books).
For more information about ISCI visit www.statecrime.org. To find out more about Ali Aarrass see www.freeali.eu; and Talha Ahsan at www.freetalha.org Follow on Twitter: @AliAarrass @hamjaaahsan @freetalha
Complicity: Europe colludes with the torture of its own citizens
Source : Statecrime
Event on Facebook
6.30pm, 17 June 2013
Room K-1.56, King’s Building, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS
The International State Crime Initiative and the London Friends of Ali Aarrass invite you to the UK premiere of the new documentary by Moroccan playwright and film-maker, Mohamed Ouachen, ‘Ali Aarrass pour l’exemple’ (sub-titled in English). This, the story of a Belgian dual national extradited from Spain to Morocco where he was tortured and sentenced to fifteen years in prison at a mockery of a trial, has parallels with the case of British Muslim Talha Ahsan, and a screening of the documentary ‘Extradition’ by Turab Shah about the plight of Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, extradited in 2012 to a US supermax prison in Connecticut, will follow ‘Ali Aarrass pour l’exemple’.
After the film screenings, there will be a panel discussion chaired by Professor Penny Green, where family members and human rights and prison campaigners from the UK, Belgium and the United States will discuss the interconnections between racism and exclusion, banishment and prison, and ask what more can be done to challenge the double standards that exclude Muslim citizens from the rule of law and leave them vulnerable to the most despicable human rights violations.
Panellists at the event will include:
Hamja Ahsan (brother of Talha Ahsan),
Avery Gordon (Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, co-host of No Alibis, a weekly public affairs radio programme on KCSB 91.9 FM Santa Barbara).
This event is free and all are welcome to attend, however, registration is essential, please do so here.
For more information about Ali see www.freeali.eu, about Talha www.freetalha.org Follow on Twitter: @AliAarrass @hamjaaahsan @freetalha
« Maroc : Lutte contre le terrorisme et sécurité
Les personnes soupçonnées d’actes de terrorisme, entre autres infractions liées à la sécurité, risquaient d’être torturées ou maltraitées et de ne pas bénéficier d’un procès équitable.
Ali Aarass, reconnu coupable en novembre 2011 d’appartenance à une organisation terroriste, a vu sa peine de 15 ans d’emprisonnement ramenée à 12 ans par la cour d’appel de Salé. Un recours en cassation était en instance à la fin de l’année. Cet homme avait été extradé par l’Espagne vers le Maroc en décembre 2010, en violation de mesures provisoires ordonnées par le Comité des droits de l’homme [ONU] car il risquait d’être torturé et maltraité au Maroc. Il aurait été contraint de faire des « aveux » sous la torture.
En août, le Groupe de travail sur la détention arbitraire [ONU] a conclu que la détention de Mohamed Hajib, ressortissant germano-marocain, était arbitraire ; il a demandé au gouvernement marocain de remettre cet homme en liberté. Mohamed Hajib avait été déclaré coupable en 2010 d’infractions liées au terrorisme sur la base d’aveux qui auraient été obtenus sous la torture pendant sa détention provisoire, en l’absence d’un avocat. Il avait été condamné à une peine de 10 ans d’emprisonnement, qui a été ramenée à cinq ans en janvier. Il était maintenu en détention à la fin de l’année. Ses allégations de torture n’ont pas fait l’objet d’une enquête. »
« Morocco : Counter-terror and security
People suspected of terrorism or other security-related crimes were at risk of torture or other ill-treatment and unfair trials.
Ali Aarrass, who was convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization in November 2011, had his 15-year prison sentence reduced to 12 years by the Sale Court of Appeal. A further appeal to the Court of Cassation was pending at the end of the year. He had been extradited from Spain to Morocco in December 2010 contrary to interim measures issued by the UN Human Rights Committee due to a risk of torture and other ill-treatment in Morocco. He was reported to have been made to « confess » under torture.
In August, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared the detention of Mohamed Hajib, a Moroccan/German national, to be arbitrary, and urged the Moroccan authorities to release him. He was convicted of terrorism offences in 2010 on the basis of a confession allegedly obtained under torture while he was held in pre-trial detention and denied access to a lawyer. Mohamed Hajib received a 10-year prison sentence, reduced to five years in January. He was still held at the end of the year. The authorities did not investigate his torture allegations. »
AI Rapport 2013 : Le Maroc et Sahara Occidental
AI Report 2013 : Morocco/Western Sahara
Editor’s Note: A French version of this blog is available for download here (Une version française de ce blog est disponible en téléchargement ici) [DOC]
Ali Aarrass is a Belgian-Moroccan citizen currently held in a Moroccan prison, where he is regularly subjected to various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment.
His ordeal began in 2006 when he was arrested for the first time in Spain for smuggling weapons into Morocco. Released on bail, he was arrested for the second time in April 2008 by Spanish authorities, following an international arrest warrant issued by Morocco.
That time, he was accused of being involved in terrorist activities. This accusation was based on a list of suspects provided by Abdelkader Belliraj after being subject to torture. However, after a two-year investigation, the Spanish court found no evidence proving that Ali was guilty. Yet, Moroccan authorities still insisted on his extradition.
In a preliminary decision of the UN Human Rights Committee issued in late 2010, the Committee requested that Spain not extradite Ali before any further consideration was taken on his case because of the high risk that he would be facing torture in Morocco.
Despite a formal recognition of his innocence by the Spanish justice system and a high risk of being subjected to torture if extradited to Morocco, Spain proceeded with his extradition on 14 December 2010.
The feared violation of Ali’s fundamental rights unfortunately immediately occurred. Ali was secretly detained and interrogated under torture by Moroccan police. Therefore, he was not only a victim of torture, but also a victim of a serious violation of his procedural rights.
The use of forced confessions obtained under torture was the only legal basis for his conviction of being involved in terrorist activities.
Ali reported being subjected to torture during his detention by Moroccan police and referred his case to the UN Committee against Torture. Thereafter, the Moroccan authorities ordered a medical examination, which was conducted by three Moroccan doctors. While their assessment did not confirm the allegations of torture, it strongly questioned the credibility of the original medical. Indeed, the medical report does not seem to rely on any standard derived from international law, such as the Istanbul Protocol, the common name for the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an internationally recognised standard for conducting a forensic medical and psychological examination in a torture case.
Facing this situation, Ali’s lawyers — members of a Belgian human rights organisation “Jus Cogens” – called for the IRCT’s support in early 2011, in the context of the project “Forensic Evidence Against Torture” (FEAT).
This liaison between lawyers and an independent medical expert, established by the IRCT, has enabled a thorough and substantial criticism of the three-page Moroccan expertise within a very short time frame. Thus, lawyers have been able to use this “counter-report” before national and international courts.
The forensic expert was selected among the members of the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) established by the IRCT in 2008. This group is composed of highly-qualified health professionals trained on the medical procedures contained in the Istanbul Protocol.
The forensic expert concluded that the report ordered by the Moroccan Attorney General did not meet the requirements of the Istanbul Protocol. Indeed, he notes that the report only contains very basic information on Ali’s medical state, without bringing any kind of psychological and psychiatric assessment to the analysis.
The expert therefore recommended that a new medical and psychological examination should be conducted in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol and by a doctor experienced in the field of health expertise on victims of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
In order to give more weight and credibility to the counter-report issued by the IFEG expert, a second counter-report was carried out by a Moroccan doctor, also member of the IFEG. He confirmed the conclusion of the first international expert stating that the report conducted under the Attorney General’s orders was not in conformity with the Istanbul Protocol.
Yet the submission of forensic expert reports and statements in compliance with the Istanbul Protocol is sometimes simply not enough. It is up to the courts to recognise them as evidence.
The case of Ali Aarrass is an obvious example. Despite the production of two independent expert statements by international independent health professionals, the Moroccan courts effectively ignored allegations of torture at all stages of the trial.
Seeing the bad faith with which Moroccan authorities have been handling the case, Ali’s lawyers are quite pessimistic about the future of the case. Indeed, they are not expecting the justice system to leave the possibility of national authorities recognising the torture suffered during Ali’s first interrogations in Morocco. It is likely that Ali will serve the 12-year sentence, as decided by the appeal court.
Morocco does not seem to respect its international legal obligations, particularly with regard to the Convention against Torture, which the country ratified in 1993. The obligations to investigate and to provide as full means as possible for the rehabilitation of victims are not optional.
Ali Aarrass continues to suffer daily abuse, and inhuman and degrading treatment inside his prison. However, despite the continued threats and actual abuse, he never hesitates to speak out on his situation.
Many organisations, lawyers, family members who support him, and Ali himself, can still hope that the international bodies will eventually recognise the violation of Ali’s fundamental rights and offer him an opportunity for full rehabilitation.
November 7, 2012 · by Aisha Maniar
One Week in October
In the first week of October, two court cases took place in two different countries in different continents involving different people. Both cases, involving extradition from European countries, nonetheless display some striking similarities in the surrounding circumstances and hint at a worrying new European practice.
On 1st October, the Rabat Court of Appeal in Morocco reduced the conviction of Belgian-Moroccan national Ali Aarrass to 12 years from an initial 15 years on terrorism-related charges, which he claims he confessed to under torture. On 5th October, at the High Court in London, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, the Tooting Two, both British citizens, lost their combined decade-long fight against extradition to the United States on charges of alleged support for terrorism. They claim that pre-trial and possible post-trial imprisonment in the US would be tantamount to cruel and degrading treatment.
Ali Aarrass, a 50-year old bookseller from Brussels, was born in the Spanish enclave of Melilla in North Africa in 1962. He moved to Belgium in 1977, aged 15, and obtained Belgian nationality in 1989. He was not involved in any political or religious organisations. In 2005, he returned to Melilla with his family where he ran a café. Suspected of involvement in bombings in Casablanca in 2003, he was arrested for the first time in Melilla in 2006. Released on bail after four days, he was arrested again in April 2008, when the Moroccan authorities requested his extradition on charges of terrorism involvement. He was held in custody in various Spanish jails until he was extradited on 14 December 2010. Following a thorough two-year investigation, in March 2009, Judge Baltazar Garzon, formerly one of Europe’s strictest anti-terrorism judges, found that there were insufficient grounds to implicate him in the attacks. Spain nonetheless acquiesced to the extradition request. Upon arrival, he promptly “disappeared” for 12 days during which he “confessed”; he maintains that he was tortured. This resulted in his conviction in November 2011 on charges of bringing weapons into Morocco and supporting a terrorist network, allegedly run by another Belgian-Moroccan, Abdelkader Belliraj, who was given a life sentence in 2009.
Meanwhile, in London, the ordeal of 38-year old Babar Ahmad, who worked in the IT department at Imperial College, University of London, started even earlier in 2003, in perhaps one of the most extraordinary cases of a miscarriage of justice in recent times. Babar Ahmad was arrested for the first time by anti-terrorism police at his Tooting home in December 2003; during that arrest, he sustained over 73 injuries. In 2009, Babar Ahmad was awarded £60,000 for the attack following admission of it by the police. No apology has been offered. In June 2011, four officers were found not guilty of assault. He was released 6 days later without charge.
In August 2004, he was arrested again pending extradition to the USA. The charges revolve largely around Babar Ahmad’s operation of websites alleged to support terrorist organisations, one of which was briefly hosted in the US, and soliciting funds for terrorist organisations. Although the alleged crimes are reported to have taken place in the United Kingdom, in July 2004, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not prosecute “on the basis that there was insufficient evidence in the UK for a successful prosecution”. He was indicted in the US. In May 2005, the senior district judge responsible for extraditions approved the extradition and in November that year, his extradition was ordered by the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke.
His co-accused, the lesser-known Talha Ahsan, was arrested in September 2006 on the same charges. A 33-year old graduate from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Talha Ahsan is an award-winning poet and suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, making him more vulnerable. His extradition was approved by the court in March 2007 and ordered by the Home Secretary in June that year.
Having exhausted all avenues of appeal in the UK, the men took their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. The Court stayed the extraditions and in a partial ruling in 2010 ordered the extraditions be stayed once more until it was ascertained that the men would not be subject to inhumane treatment, particularly with respect to the harsh conditions of detention there. In an extraordinary ruling in April 2012, the Court held that extradition to the US would not breach their human rights.
Their cases have attracted considerable attention. In 2011, over 140,000 people signed an e-petition to Prime Minister David Cameron seeking that the two men be tried in the UK. Under current government rules, an e-petition to the prime minister with over 100,000 signatures should lead to a specific debate in parliament on an issue. In the end, the issue was discussed as part of a wider debate disappointing campaigners. The two men have not tried to avoid prosecution: they have always insisted that if there are charges to answer and sufficient evidence to try them, that they be tried in the UK where the offences allegedly took place. To this end, in 2012, businessman Karl Watkins tried to bring a private prosecution against them under the Terrorism Act 2000. This case was dismissed on 4 October, a day before their extradition, for failing “to show a genuine intention to prosecute”. On 6 October both men pleaded not guilty to all charges before a Connecticut court. Since the extradition, there has been no telephone or written communication between the men and their families at all.
Observers at both trials reported the farcical nature of the trials in which the verdicts appeared to be long foregone. In the latter UK trial, it emerged that a US Department of Justice-owned jet plane had arrived from Washington on Tuesday at an air force base to collect the men, the same day the 4-day hearing started. The Independent newspaper also revealed that the Metropolitan Police, all the while claiming there was insufficient evidence to prosecute in the UK, handed evidence over to the FBI on at least nine occasions. This evidence was never seen by the CPS. Instead, European citizens were sent to other countries where the risk of torture and abuse of their right to a fair trial cannot be ruled out.
Torture and Extradition
In Ali Aarrass’ case, torture has been a feature throughout. The lack of evidence leading to the Spanish case against him being dismissed in 2009 was due to his name having been mentioned by a Moroccan prisoner who was tortured; the confession was later retracted. The two had never met and did not know each other. In this terrorist network investigation, more than 1500 people were arrested on suspicion of involvement, many of whom were tortured at Temara Prison, like Ali. In view of Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) October 2010 report on this very subject, concerns expressed by Amnesty International and then the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (HRC) order to stay the extradition while his case was considered, there is no way that Spain could have been unaware of the risk he faced when it accepted Morocco’s assurances. Furthermore, it could not be unaware of the routine use of torture in Moroccan jails. As well as the horrific torture case involving former Guantánamo Bay prisoner Binyam Mohamed, other extraordinary torture rendition cases related to Morocco had emerged by then. Even Hollywood knew it: Morocco was strongly tipped to be the unnamed country in the 2007 film Rendition. Belgian lawyers for Ali Aarrass are now bringing a case against Spain before the HRC.
The extradition itself was secretive, with his family and lawyers only learning of his removal to Morocco through the press. Upon arrival in Morocco, Ali “disappeared” for 12 days, during which he was held by the police. He emerged bruised and battered, claiming that he had been beaten, subjected to sleep deprivation, injected with chemicals, raped, given electric shocks to his genitals, claims consistent with those made by many other prisoners in Moroccan jails. His Belgian lawyers have also brought a complaint against Morocco for an independent investigation into his torture claims. The Moroccan police, on the other hand, emerged with a signed confession to the charges in Arabic, a language he does not speak or read, evidenced by the need for an interpreter at his hearings. At his first trial, he retracted the confession, saying he had been forced to sign it. He is still subject to abuse in prison.
US prison conditions do not fare much better. In their case before the ECtHR, the Tooting Two argued that their extradition would be incompatible with their human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 3 (prohibition on torture), as they would most likely be held at the Federal ADX Florence “Supermax” Prison if convicted; both face the possibility of a life sentence there. Described by a former prison officer as a “clean version of hell”, 360 prisoners are held at the administrative maximum facility (ADX), including some of the US’ most notorious convicts, in high-security conditions, tantamount to almost perpetual solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and “extreme isolation”, aimed at breaking prisoners down. This is par for the course in a country that deems torture to be an “enhanced interrogation technique” and in which the solitary confinement of prisoners is routine. One year ago, prisoners at the Pelican Bay Supermax Prison in California, home largely to violent gang members, started a hunger strike over conditions. Some prisoners have been in solitary confinement for over 20 years (the average is 8 at this jail), during which they have no contact with other human beings, including prison staff. This has been described by lawyers and prisoners as a cruel and unusual punishment. The mental health effects on prisoners, including depression, hallucinations, post-traumatic stress disorder and sometimes suicide are currently the subject of litigation with respect to Pelican Bay and ADX Florence. The surprise was the ECtHR ruling in April that such prison conditions would not be in breach of the two men’s human rights. For many campaigners, particularly in the US, it was felt that this politicised decision by the ECtHR gave torture, or at least cruel and degrading treatment, the green light, and international sanction of a harsh and inhumane regime. In spite of the ECtHR’s satisfaction with conditions in the US, following the extraditions, Amnesty International expressed its concerns and dismay at the ruling.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez has intervened in both cases. In early October, his office wrote to the British government informing it that the extraditions would be in breach of the UN Convention Against Torture. Mr Mendez said, “I think there is very good arguments that solitary confinement and SAMs (special administrative measures, which impose severe restrictions on communication with other inmates or the outside world) would constitute torture and prevent the UK from extraditing these men.” He described such conditions as “arbitrary” and not “disciplinary”.
Juan Mendez visited Ali Aarrass in prison in Morocco just days before his appeal hearing started in September. He then issued a statement expressing his grave concerns about the use of torture in Moroccan jails, which he described as “systematic”. As a result, Mr Aarrass was threatened by prison staff. A report by Morocco’s official human rights body, the CNDH, last month revealed that most prisoners are subject to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” without any effective investigations or inspections. At his hearing on 1st October, Ali Aarrass was supposed to be given an opportunity to talk about the torture he had faced. Following the reduction and not overturn of his sentence, Mr Aarrass’ lawyers are now appealing to the supreme administrative court (Court of Cassation) on a number of points of law.
In a forthcoming documentary about her brother, Ali Aarrass, Pour l’Exemple (English working title: Ali Aarrass: The Buck Stops Here), Farida Aarrass describes him as a “bargaining chip” in relations between the three states involved in his ordeal: Morocco, Spain and Belgium. The war on terror has indeed provided fertile ground for the burgeoning trade in human beings in diplomatic and commercial relations. A clear example of this was unearthed by HRW in Libya last year and is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police, concerning Britain’s direct involvement in the extraordinary rendition of Libyan dissidents in 2004. Shortly thereafter, trade relations were resumed with the Gaddafi regime, and attempts were made to deport other dissidents from the UK.
Cables leaked by Wikileaks demonstrate the clear awareness of various states of the torture evidence used in the Belliraj (terrorism ring) trials held in 2009, as well as concerns on how to deal with the abuses of rights and due process cited by lawyers and human rights NGOs. Less than a fortnight after ordering the extradition of the Tooting Two, Home Secretary Theresa May decided not to extradite Gary McKinnon, ending his almost decade-long fight, citing his Asperger’s Syndrome, also suffered by Talha Ahsan, as compromising his human rights and putting him at additional risk; this was ascertained not independently but by her own doctors. Home secretaries are not known for their compassion, as anti-deportation campaigners know too well. Clearly, a deal had been struck in Mr McKinnon’s case – who has suffered considerably – which was not reached in the case of the Tooting Two. The Home Secretary also announced changes, but the not much sought-after repeal, of the Extradition Act 2003. Much has been written about the unfairness in the two decisions in cases with striking similarities. Accused of racism and islamophobia, the test will come later this year when Richard O’Dwyer, not an Asperger’s sufferer, but also facing charges of online US offences committed in the UK, has his extradition hearing.
The United States and its intelligence agencies prefer to rely on their extrajudicial armoury, such as “extraordinary rendition” and fuzzy definitions of terms, such as “enhanced interrogation techniques” for “torture”. European states, on the other hand, continue to deny their involvement in such practices or that they collude in torture in any way. In the same way that the US outsources torture through such practices, European states are choosing to outsource justice in cases that would be problematic vis-à-vis the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 3 (prohibition on torture), Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 6 (right to a fair trial). An extradition involves a lawful “rendition” where a person is lawfully handed over from one state to another. European states are using legal mechanisms, such as extradition, to outsource justice, to states whose lower standards of proof and fair trials allow them to be tried in cases that could never be brought in Europe. This is clear in Ali Aarrass’ case having been thrown out by one of the strictest anti-terrorism judges in Europe. Other mechanisms exist too, such as the arbitrary deprivation of nationality and constraints on dual citizens, including Belgium’s own previous “double peine” regime, stripping dual nationals of their Belgian citizenship if convicted. The dehumanising and isolating effect of the war on terror, accusations of involvement in terrorist activity and the cult of secrecy shrouding “national security” concerns provide a comfortable blanket for governments worldwide. In the case of individuals like Ali Aarrass and the Tooting Two, it is truly the hard work of their families, lawyers and activists, who have refused to let matters go quietly or at all, that have thwarted official attempts to obscure such procedures, that are sometimes illegal, and have dragged the process on for years and beyond where the state parties involved may have liked.
There is something more sinister at play, however, perhaps best evidenced by the fact that a British company, Hiatts, once famous for manufacturing the shackles used to transport slaves across the Atlantic later produced shackles to transport prisoners to Guantánamo Bay. At the macro level, as governments around the world act like organised gangs, wilfully outside of the known confines of the law, enabling show trials and violating the absolute prohibition on the use of torture, and as extraordinary rendition and the war on terror have escalated over the past decade, so have other trades in human beings. At the micro level, this has opened the floodgates to the proliferation of people trafficking most often for domestic slavery and sexual exploitation, and debt bondage: slavery is well and truly alive in the twenty first century. Just a few weeks ago, the BBC reported that slavery, in its various forms is at its highest level ever. Criminal gangs trade in vulnerable people across borders and continents through extraordinary underhand deals in very much the same ways as governments, concealed by a code of silence.
Ali Aarrass, Pour L’Exemple will premiere on Sunday 11 November as part of the 12th Mediterranean Film Festival in Brussels. This is Armistice or Remembrance Day. Much has changed in the century since the “great war”: empires have risen and fallen, languages and technologies have evolved but history has a habit of repeating itself, and some stories remain the same.
Premiere of Ali Aarrass, Pour L’Exemple: 12th Mediterranean Film Festival, Sunday 11th November 2012, Rotonde, Brussels, 3pm
Surviving Extradition: With Gary Mulgrew, Hamja Ahsan and Aviva Stahl, Friday 23rd November, 6.45-8.30pm, Abrar House, 45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP
Action alert: write to the Foreign Secretary, British Ambassador and your MP