Afrique Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
 
United States8 February 2007

Reporters Without Borders protesters demand release of cameraman Sami al-Haj from Guantanamo detention centre

(JPEG)

Some 20 Reporters Without Borders activists, representatives of al-Jazeera, members of the Arab human rights committee and other groups demonstrated on 8 February outside the Paris bureau of the Qatar-based TV to demand the release of Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman with the channel, who has been held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention centre since 13 June 2002.

Demonstrators waved pictures of the journalist, alongside slogans calling for his release, in English and Arabic. Some protestors were dressed symbolically in the orange jump suits which Guantanamo prisoners have to wear.

Sami al-Haj was captured by the Pakistani Army on the Afghan border in December 2001 then handed over to US troops before being transferred to Guantanamo on 13 June 2002. He was forced to confess alleged links between al-Jazeera and al-Qaeda. He underwent more than 150 interrogation sessions and was regularly tortured, through prolonged exposure to full sun, by ducking in water, sleep deprivation and so on. Ill and deprived of all contact with his family since his imprisonment, the journalist told his London-based solicitor Clive Stafford-Smith when he saw him in April 2006 that for the first time he had thought about suicide. The case of Sami al-Haj, accused without proof of having interviewed Osama bin Laden and to have been involved in arms trafficking for Islamic terrorists is typical of the fate suffered by many of his fellow detainees.

After a long legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled on 29 June 2006 that special military tribunals set up to try the “enemy combatants” were unconstitutional. On 28 September, Congress legalised the special courts and introduced amendments preventing prisoners from contesting their detention before being tried and banning all legal action against their jailors. On 17 October, another law authorised the recourse to torture.

The Guantanamo camp, which was converted into a prison for “enemy combatants” on 10 January 2002, received up to 770 prisoners. It now holds 395 and the US authorities plan to put between 60 and 80 of them on trial. Sami al-Haj’s lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith has been unable to tell Reporters Without Borders if his client is among them (see release of 10 January 2007).

The torture and ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners, which were exposed by an employee of the Marine Corps legal service, led to an internal investigation in October 2006. Making public his conclusions on 7 February 2007, Colonel Richard Bassett said there was “insufficient proof to support the accusations” of the witness.



In this country
14 May - United States
Arraignment of suspected mastermind of Chauncey Bailey’s murder postponed again
14 May - United States
Obama opposes release of torture photos
6 May - United States
“To combat Internet censorship, companies cannot be left to act on their own”
4 May - United States
Yusuf Bey IV indicted in Chauncey Bailey’s murder
2 May - United States
Reporters Without Borders welcomes President’s statement in honor of World Press Freedom Day

in the annual report
United States - Annual Report 2008
United States - Annual report 2007
United States - Annual report 2006


reports
14 March 2008 - Cuba
No surrender by independent journalists, five years on from “black spring”
5 June 2007 - Venezuela
Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
22 May 2007 - Colombia
Paramilitary "black eagles" poised to swoop down on press
archives

Americas press releases
3 June - United States
President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

Americas archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Sign the petitions
Cuba
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez
Cuba
Fabio Prieto Llorente
United States
Chauncey Bailey
A petition to Raúl Castro