One “unlawful combatant” to be released, but most remain unlawfully detained

The ICJ welcomes the announcement that Yaser Hamdi, a dual US/Saudi national who has been detained as an “unlawful combatant” mostly incommunicado since late 2001, is to be released from a US Naval Brig.

However, the ICJ continues to deplore the detention of hundreds of other unlawful combatants at Guantanamo Bay and other places of detention.

Mr. Hamdi is to be freed following a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in June that required that he be given a fair hearing. Rather than grant the hearing, the United States Government has decided to release him, provided he renounces his United States citizenship and remains in Saudi Arabia.

“The United States authorities did not appear to have substantial evidence showing that Yaser Hamdi had committed a crime or was a serious threat to its national security. Otherwise they certainly would have preferred to grant him a fair hearing to letting him go”, commented Ian Seiderman, ICJ Legal Adviser. “One wonders how many other people languishing in United States detention centers, without contact with the outside world, must be in a position similar to Mr. Hamdi’s.”

The ICJ considers that under international law, all detainees held as “unlawful combatants” must either be given the protections of the Third Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, be charged with a recognizable crime and given a fair trial, or be released.

“The United States would do well to heed the advice of the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who told the UN General Assembly this week that only by returning to a commitment to respect the rule of law, from which some have strayed, can states confront the threat posed to the security of their people,” said Ian Seiderman.

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