Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian man, is suing the Canadian government for $50 million dollars for being complicit in his torture carried out by the United States government in Guantanamo Bay. Ameziane was held in Guantanamo Bay for 11 years for allegations that were never proven, nor was he ever charged for any crime. Ameziane was accused of attending mosques in Montreal where al-Qaeda members were said to pray and being affiliated with known Taliban fighters in Canada and in Afghanistan. This case has raises serious questions about Canada’s involvement in the operation of Guantanamo Bay and the resulting infringement of human rights of the detainees.
Ameziane, who is now 50-years-old, was born in Algeria in 1967. In 1992, he left the country because of the Algerian Civil War and moved to Austria where he worked as a chef. When his work permit expired, he moved to Canada and applied for political asylum in Montreal. He was denied political asylum and so, moved to Afghanistan in 2000. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, Ameziane crossed into Pakistan to escape the war. Once in Pakistan, he was taken in by local authorities who transferred him to US forces.
In 2002, Ameziane was sent to Guantanamo Bay detention camp and was held there without charge. While he was detained, Ameziane was sleep-deprived, subjected to genital searches, pepper-sprayed, waterboarded, left in freezing temperatures, and physically abused. Both Canada and the United States of America have provisions against torture in their relative constitutions. In the US, the freedom from “cruel and unusual punishment” is recognized under the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. In Canada, this same freedom is protected under Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In spite of this, the Canadian government has been arguably complicit in the unlawful human rights abuses carried out against Ameziane by the US government. Canada had been sharing intelligence with the Americans since after the 1999 “Millenium plot,” in which another Algerian living in Montreal has planned an attack on the Los Angeles airport. This relationship continued after 9/11 as well, only further intensifying the situation. Ameziane claims that he was sent to Guantanamo on the basis of this very intelligence that the Canadian government irresponsibly shared with US authorities. He alleges that Canadian officials knew about the human rights abuses being carried out against him yet they still chose to share unfounded information against him.
Now, Ameziane seeks damages for the years he spent suffering as his fundamental freedoms were snatched from him. He claims that the Canadian government knowingly co-operated with the US in the abuses that were carried out against him. Canada has previously gone through similar accusations by Omar Khadr, another Canadian man who was detained and tortured in Guantanamo Bay. However, Khadr settled out of court and therefore, the Canadian government was able to suppress the allegations made against them.
Recently, Ameziane spoke about his condition saying, “My current situation is really bad, I am struggling to survive… I was repatriated from Guantanamo and left like almost homeless. I couldn’t find a job because of the Guantanamo stigma and my age, so a settlement would be very helpful to me to get my life back together.” With Ameziane bringing forward new allegations, the courts will have another chance to revisit Canada’s involvement with human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay and their efforts in anti-terrorism.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.