France judge requests access to Guantanamo to probe torture allegations

[JURIST] A French judge has requested access to information from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] in order to investigate allegations of torture being made by three French citizens. Judge Sophie Clement requested access to documents, as well as access to individuals who had contact with the men during their arrest and detention by the US government. Clement is specifically seeking information relating to the justification for the detention [AFP report] of the men, who were all arrested in late 2001 near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. She is also asking for information related to US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan that led to their arrest, as well as the treatment of the men during their arrest and detention. The men, Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali and Khaled Ben Mustapha, claim to have been subject to sexual abuse, beatings and sleep deprivation [AP report] during their detention. The men were returned to France in 2004 and 2005, and were sentenced to one year in prison on terrorism charges in 2011. A lawyer for two of the men indicated that Clement's actions were unprecedented and that he was hopeful her actions would allow his clients to identify the individuals responsible for their detention and alleged torture.

The US facility at Guantanamo Bay remains a controversial aspect of the US "war on terror," and numerous allegations of torture have been made by former prisoners, prompting multiple investigations. In April a Spanish judge announced that the Spanish National Court would not investigate [JURIST report] six Bush administration officials pursuant to torture claims from Guantanamo Bay after the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] provided a letter assuring Spain that the US is investigating the treatment of detainees and has already completed federal criminal prosecution for the detainee mistreatment. In February 2011, the Spanish National Court agreed to continue investigating [JURIST report] allegations of a Moroccan man who claims that he was tortured while detained at Guantanamo Bay. The court first opened the investigation in April 2009 [JURIST report], looking into torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay made by four former prisoners. The court based its decision on statements by the prisoners who claimed they were subject to various forms of physical and mental abuse during their imprisonment, as well as CIA interrogation memos [JURIST report] detailing a plan which allegedly authorized the systematic torture and mistreatment of persons who were deprived the basic rights of detainees.

 

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