HUMAN RIGHTS FOR EACH PERSON REGARDLESS OF AGE, RACE, RELIGION OR POLITICS
Asylum-seekers in Australia remain in long-term limbo
Ahmed was not quite 11 years old when his family arrived in Australia
seeking asylum. Placed in immigration detention, his mental health
deteriorated alarmingly. Ahmed tried to hang himself twice in seven months
and committed many acts of self-harm. After three long years Ahmed and his
family were finally recognized as refugees and released.
This is just one of the stories contained in AI's June 2005 report, The
impact of indefinite detention: The case to change Australia's mandatory
detention regime (ASA 12/001/2005). There are hundreds more stories which
could be told of lives blighted, sometimes irredeemably, by Australia's
mandatory detention regime.
AI estimates that as at 29 May 2005, 210 people detained in Australian
immigration facilities (including the offshore centre on the South Pacific
island of Nauru) had been there for over 18 months. The longest serving
detainee at that time was Peter Qasim, a rejected Kashmiri asylum-seeker
who had been held since September 1998. Australian law requires that a
non-national in Australia without a valid visa must be detained until he
or she is either granted a temporary protection visa or leaves the
country. Rejected asylum-seekers such as Peter Qasim, who cannot leave
Australia because no country will accept him as a national or allow him
entry, face being detained indefinitely.
Since the report was finalized, Peter Qasim's situation has improved
slightly. He has been granted a Removal Pending Bridging Visa which allows
a non-national in immigration detention to be released when it is not
possible to remove them from Australia. To be eligible for this visa the
visa holder must agree to leave the country when the Australian government
requires them to do so.
Peter Qasim is now being treated for mental illness caused by his
prolonged detention, but the uncertainty of his present situation only
adds to his stress and does little to aid his recovery.
Australia's mandatory detention regime places it in breach of several of
the inter-national human rights treaties which it has signed up to,
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. In June the Australian Prime
Minister announced several changes to the detention regime, intended to
soften its edges without altering the fundamental policy.
While the changes are a step in the right direction, they have not
adequately addressed the key recommendations made in AI's report. Unless
further changes are made asylum-seekers who arrive without a valid visa
will continue to be automatically detained in contravention of Australia's
obligations under international human rights and refugee law. They will
continue to be held without an assessment of whether their detention is
necessary and proportionate, and without access to review by an
independent body able to order a release.
The only safeguard against indefinite detention will be the Minister for
Immigration's discretion – which she cannot be forced to use. And any
alternative to indefinite detention for rejected asylum-seekers who cannot
be returned will also be at the Minister's discretion.
Kept in limbo and unable ever to apply for permanent residence, Peter
Qasim faces a lifetime of being in Australia but never being part of its
Yemenis held in secret US detention centres
"I couldn't bear it any longer… even if I was an animal I wouldn't put up
with it." Salah Nasser Salim 'Ali speaking about his secret detention by
For almost two years Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah and Salah Nasser Salim
'Ali, both Yemeni nationals, were detained incommunicado without charge or
trial in unknown locations, guarded by men "with American accents". They
were never given any reason for their detention. When AI delegates visited
them in prison in Yemen in June, they told how they were held in solitary
confinement since 2003 with no access to family, lawyers or diplomatic
They remain in detention in Yemen, despite the authorities' admission that
they have no reason to continue holding them. Yemeni officials told AI
that the men are in continued detention at the request of the US authorities.
Salah Nasser Salim 'Ali was seized in Jakarta, Indonesia, in August 2003
and told by Indonesian officials that he would be deported back to Yemen
via Jordan. He was detained on arrival in Jordan. Muhammad Faraj Ahmed
Bashmilah was detained in Jordan in October 2003. The two men were
initially held in solitary confinement for approximately four days in
Jordan. Salah Nasser Salim 'Ali says that he was routinely beaten by
Jordanian officials. He was spat upon, verbally abused and threatened with
sexual abuse and electrocution. He also described being subjected to the
torture technique known as falaqa (beatings on the soles of the feet).
The men described how they were then blindfolded, shackled and transported
by plane to another location. Both men state that the guards were from the
They were held in an underground facility with high walls. Western music
was piped into the cells 24 hours a day. Neither knew the other was
detained. Held in solitary confinement, they had "disappeared" from the
rest of the world.
About six months later they were transferred to another unknown site which
they described as a modern, purpose-built, underground detention facility
run by US officials. It was fully air-conditioned with modern toilets and
surveillance cameras in the cells. At no point did they have contact with
other detainees. Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah estimated that there were
about 15 or 20 others detained in the same facility.
The two men were released from secret detention and transferred back to
Yemen in May, with no explanation. They remain detained in the central
prison of Aden. Neither has been charged or tried with any offence and
neither can understand the reasons for his continued detention. Salah
Nasser Salim 'Ali now has a daughter nearly two years old who he has never
seen. In June, Muhammad Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah said: "In Yemen I thought
they would open their hearts to me, but instead they opened the prisons. I
thought they would appreciate the suffering I have been through".
Please write to the Yemeni authorities, urging them to release Muhammad
Faraj Ahmed Bashmilah and Salah Nasser Salim 'Ali immediately unless they
are to be promptly charged with recognizable criminal offences in a trial
that guarantees the minimum international standards for fair trial.
Send letters to: His Excellency, Dr Rashid Muhammad al-'Alimi, Minister of
the Interior, Ministry of the Interior, Sana'a, Yemen. Fax: +967 1 332 511.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
'Disappeared' for 10 years
Colonel Avdo Palic was forcibly taken by soldiers of the Bosnian Serb Army
(VRS) from the UN Protection Forces compound in Žepa, Bosnia and
Herzegovina (BiH), on 27 July 1995. He had gone there to negotiate the
evacuation of civilians from the town which had just surrendered. He was
commander of the BiH army in the UN "safe haven" of Žepa in eastern BiH.
General Ratko Mladic, the VRS commander, was reportedly present during
these negotiations, which were conducted by General Zdravko Tolimir. Avdo
Palic was never seen again after reportedly having been taken by
helicopter in the direction of General Mladic's headquarters in eastern
BiH. Apparently still in custody in 1996, he was allegedly being
considered for a prisoner exchange.
In January 2001, the BiH Human Rights Chamber ordered a full investigation
into the "disappearance" of Avdo Palic.
In October 2001, following pressure from AI members, the Minister of
Defence of the Republic of Srpska (RS) verified that Avdo Palic was taken
to Vanekov Mlin prison in Bijeljina in August 1995 and moved from there in
September 1995 with a view to exchanging him. The Ministry stated that
they had no further information about his "disappearance" and no knowledge
of his whereabouts.
A letter sent by the RS Ministry of Interior to AI groups in March 2003
stated that an investigation into Avdo Palic's "disappearance" was still
In February 2005, Zdravko Tolimir was indicted by the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He is accused of crimes
against humanity and violation of the laws or customs of war in the
context of the events surrounding the fall of Srebrenica and Žepa in 1995.
At the time of writing, Zdravko Tolimir remains at large.
Please write, calling on the RS authorities to carry out a full
investigation into the fate and whereabouts of Colonel Avdo Palic and to
bring those reasonably suspected of participation in his "disappearance"
to justice. Call for the authorities to inform Avdo Palic's family and AI
of any further progress in the investigation.
Send appeals to: Prime Minister, Pero Bukejlovic, Vuka Karadžica 4, 51000
Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fax: +387 51 331
366. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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FREEDOM IS A RIGHT OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS IN A WORLD WHERE LIFE IS VALUED AND PEACE MAY FINALLY BE A POSSIBILITY
Just in case you forgot - read the Universal declaration of Human Rights