File:Algerian Six.jpg

The Algerian Six are six Muslim men who had been imprisoned without charges at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since January 2002; five of them were ordered released after a long disputed habeas hearing before Judge Leon in the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C.; three were then flown to Bosnia to reunite in 'protective custody' with their families while three remained at Guantanamo, one, Belkacem, as a suspected terrorist and the other two, including Lakhmar Boumediene, as effectively stateless because Bosnia did not want them. The men were all born in Algeria, but five of the six were naturalized Bosnian citizens and the sixth had been a permanent resident of Bosnia prior to his detention. Five of the men worked for humanitarian organizations in Bosnia before they were sent to Guantanamo. After falling under U.S. suspicion of planning an attack on the U.S. embassy in Bosnia, the six men were turned over to the U.S. in January 2002 in Sarajevo by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the express demand of the U.S. Though they have remained imprisoned at Guantanamo since that date, the U.S. has yet to charge any of the men with any crimes.

The six men were formally arrested by Bosnian authorities in October 2001. They were held in Bosnian custody during a three-month investigation into U.S. claims that the men had plotted an attack on the U.S. and British Embassies. This investigation produced no evidence to justify their continued detention. The six men were then ordered released by the Bosnian Supreme Court, with recommendation of the prosecutor. At the moment of their release from Bosnian imprisonment, they were illegally handed over to American officials who flew them to detention and interrogation in the U.S. naval base at Guanatanamo Bay, Cuba. The conduct of the Bosnian authorities was formally condemned as illegal by the Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia Herzegovina, the relevant Bosnian court at the time. [5] Amnesty International recalled in 2002 that the Bosnian Supreme Court explicitly opposed itself to this transfer to US authorities [1]

In late 2004, the six men were sent before Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) of three military officers. The CSRTs concluded that the six men were properly classified as "enemy combatants" based on classified evidence, which justified their continued detention at Guantanamo. However, transcripts of CSRT hearings for four of the six men record the Bosnians reporting to their tribunal officers that interrogators did not believe that there had ever been any substance to the U.S. allegations that they had planned to bomb the U.S. embassy. Furthermore, the CSRTs applied a definition of "enemy combatant" that was so broad the government admitted it could include a "little old lady in Switzerland," who donated money to a chartiy in Afghanistan that then, without her knowledge, funded al Qaeda.[2] (See Transcript of Motion to Dismiss before United States District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green at pp. 25–26 (December 1, 2004) Rasul v. Bush, Docket No. 02-02999; see also press coverage, for example, Neil A. Lewis, Fate of Guantanamo Detainees Is debated in Federal Court, NY Times (Dec. 2, 2004), available for download at [6]).

According to Wolfgang Petritsch, UN diplomat and former High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the US threatened the UN to withdraw their men from the mission if he protested against the transfer of the Six [3]. The transfer was done by US general John Sylvester, then commandant of the SFOR United Nations forces [3].

Three British citizens who had been detained in Guantanamo, the "Tipton Three", wrote a 131 page account of their time Guantanamo.[4] They wrote about the Bosnians:

"By Bosnians we mean six Algerians who were unlawfully taken from Bosnia to Guantanamo Bay. They told us how they had won their Court case in Bosnia. As they walked out of Court, Americans were there and grabbed them and took them to Camp X-Ray, January 20, 2002. They arrived five days after us. They were treated particularly badly. They were moved every two hours. They were kept naked in their cells. They were taken to interrogation for hours on end. They were short shackled for sometimes days on end. They were deprived of their sleep. They never got letters, nor books, nor reading materials. The Bosnians had the same interrogators for a while as we did and so we knew the names which were the same as ours and they were given a very hard time by those. They told us that the interrogators said if they didn't cooperate that they could ensure that something would happen to their families in Algeria and in Bosnia. They had dual nationality. They had families in Bosnia as well as in Algeria."

The Six Edit

The six men are:

Bensayah Belkacem
  • U.S. alleges cell phone records show 70 calls to Afghanistan in the month following the attacks of September 11, 2001
  • U.S. claims he had two forged passports
  • U.S. claims he had a slip of paper with Abu Zubaydah's cell phone number on it
  • Married with two children
Hadj Boudella[5]
  • Met monthly with Bensayah, and the local leaders of four other charities, to coordinate charitable activities
  • U.S. alleges the charitable activities were just a front and that the meetings were really to discuss terrorist activities
  • Aided orphans with Human Appeal
  • Married with seven children
Lakhdar Boumediene
  • Worked in Sarajevo for the Red Crescent of United Arab Emirates
  • Married with two children
  • Boumediene v. Bush upheld by a three member Court of Appeals.[6]
Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar[7]
  • Arabic studies scholar
  • Worked for the Saudi High Committee
  • Married with two Sarajevo children
Mustafa Ait Idr [8][9]
  • Allegedly repaired computers and provided technical support for the Taliban
  • Alleges beatings broke one of his fingers and left his face partially paralyzed.
  • Has a black belt in karate, and was 1995 Croatian champ.
  • Married with three children
Mohammed Nechle[10]
  • Worked for the Red Crescent of the United Arab Emirates in Bihac, Bosnia
  • Married with two children

Melissa Hoffer's interviewsEdit

Melissa Hoffer, Stephen Oleskey[11], Rob Kirsch[12], Mark C. Fleming[13], Lynne Campbell Soutter[14], Jeffrey Gleason, Lauren Brunswick, and Allyson Portney.[15], each from the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, traveled to Guantanamo to volunteer their services to the Bosnians.[16]

Hoffer delivered a speech at the 17th Concours International de Plaidoiries.[17] She said that during her interviews the Bosnians described horrific treatment.

The USA drops the allegation of a plot to bomb the US Embassy in SarajevoEdit

The Washington Post published a profile of the six Bosnians.[18] The profile reported that the allegations the men faced during their Administrative Review Board hearings dropped the accusation that the men had been plotting to bomb the US embassy in Sarajevo.

The article reports the speculation that the men remain in detention because the Bush administration is unwilling to undergo the embarrassment of admitting it held the men for four years and never had any real evidence against them.

The article reports some of the new justifications Guantanamo intelligence analysts offered for continuing to detain the men following the abandonment of the claim the men plotted to bomb the US embassy, including:

  • Mustafa Idr had taught Karate to Bosnian orphans.
  • Another detainee, during his compulsory military service, when he still lived in Algeria, over ten years ago, had served as an army cook.
  • "Boudella was accused ... of joining bin Laden and Taliban fighters at Tora Bora, Afghanistan,.. in December 2001. In fact, at the time, Boudella was locked up thousands of miles away in Sarajevo, after his arrest in the later-discredited embassy plot."
  • A ring Boudella wore a ring "similar to those that identified the Red Rose Group members of Hamas," Boudella's wife has obtained an affidavit from the jeweller where the ring was purchased, explaining that this style of ring is extremely popular in Bosnia.

The article reports a confusing story of Bush administration negotiators trying to secure face-saving deals with Bosnia and Algeria. According to the article:

  • "U.S. officials have pressed Algeria to take back the prisoners on the condition that they be confined or kept under surveillance there. So far, the Algerian government has balked."
  • "Senior Bosnian officials said they have been told by U.S. diplomats that the six Algerians will never be allowed to return to Bosnia, which had granted dual citizenship to most of the men before their seizure. Instead, U.S. officials have pressed Algeria to take back the prisoners on the condition that they be confined or kept under surveillance there."
  • Bosnian Prime Minister Adnan Terzic requested Condoleezza Rice arrange the return of the men in a letter dated February 2, 2005.
  • On March 17, 2005 Rice replied the men could not be freed because "they still possess important intelligence data." Rice also said they still represent a threat to the USA.
  • "Three months later, the State Department offered a somewhat different explanation.., Matthew A. Reynolds, acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs, explained that the Algerians could not be released in part because the Bosnian government 'has not indicated that it is prepared or willing to accept responsibility for them upon transfer'."
  • "Justice Minister Slobodan Kovac said there would be no legal basis to place the men under arrest or surveillance if they were returned to Bosnia because they have already been exonerated there. 'There is no case against them here in Bosnia, no criminal case,' he said."

The article points out that even though the Bush administration has declined to discuss any real evidence they may have against the men that Lieutenant Commander J.D. Gordon stated:

"There was no mistake in originally detaining these individuals as enemy combatants. Their detention was directly related to their combat activities as determined by an appropriate Defense Department official before they were ever transferred to Guantanamo."

Boumediene v. Bush Edit

Main article: Boumediene v. Bush

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004) (deciding that habeas statute conferred jurisdiction on federal courts to hear challenges by aliens held at Guantanamo), the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr filed habeas corpus petitions in federal district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [7] on behalf of the six men. In these habeas petitions, the six men state that their indefinite detention is unsupported by any basis in law or fact and violates the Constitution, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (passed on Sept. 18, 2001) [8], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [9], and customary international law. In January 2005, the judge in this case, Richard Leon, and another judge in the same federal district, Judge Joyce Hens Green reached inconsistent rulings on the government’s motion to dismiss the habeas petitions. Both decisions were appealed and were consolidated for oral argument before the DC Circuit. The Court of Appeals heard oral argument first in September 2005, and again in March 2006, after the parties briefed the court on the effect of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 [10] on pending habeas cases. More briefing was filed after enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in the fall of 2006. On February 20, 2007, the Court of Appeals held 2-1 that it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeals. On March 6, 2007, the men filed a Petition for Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, which is available for download at [11]. On April 2, 2007, this petition was denied.

On June 12, 2008, Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority holding that the prisoners had a right to the habeas corpus under the United States Constitution.

Definition of "enemy combatant"Edit

During a hearing on 23 October 2008 US District Court Judge Richard J. Leon commented on the ambiguity of the term "enemy combatant".[19] Farah Stockman, writing in the Boston Globe, quoted Leon's remarks characterizing him as having "lashed out" at Congress and the Supreme Court for leaving the term undefined:

"We are here today, much to my dismay, I might add, to deal with a legal question that in my judgment should have been resolved a long time ago. I don't understand, I really don't, how the Supreme Court made the decision it made and left that question open... I don't understand how the Congress could let it go this long without resolving."

Lawyers for the Department of Justice agreed that the six men had not, after all, been involved in any terrorist acts or plans, but still maintained that they should be considered enemy combatants because the intelligence analysts suspected that they had "showed an intent to support anti-American fighters in Afghanistan."[19]


On 21 October 2008 US District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the release of the 5 Algerians held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the continued detention of a sixth, Belkacem Bensayah. The Court ruled: "To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court's obligation; the court must and will grant their petitions and order their release. This is a unique case. Few if any others will be factually like it. Nobody should be lulled into a false sense that all of the ... cases will look like this one."[20][21][22][23]

Three of the six men were released and flown to Bosnia late in the fall of 2008, leaving three behind in Guantanamo, two rejected by Bosnia and fearing for their lives in Algeria, one, Belkacar, still detained as a terrorist. On March 3, 2009, El Khabar reported that the Bush administration forced the men to sign undertakings that they would not sue the US government for their kidnapping, before they would be released.[24]

Bosnian appealEdit

On Thursday August 23, 2007 Bosnia's ministers of justice, human rights and foreign affairs released a letter to the United States that they said[25]:

"Bosnia-Herzegovina asked the US authorities to give guarantees that those people will not be sentenced to death, and will not be exposed to torture, inhumane and humiliating treatment."


  1. Bosnia-Herzegovina: Letter to the US Ambassador regarding six Algerian men, Amnesty International, Public statement 18 January 2002 AI Index EUR 63/003/2002 - News Service Nr. 11
  2. Have you received your gift pack? [1] Clive Stafford Smith April 21, 2007
  3. 3.0 3.1 Marc Perelman, Sarajevo-Guantanamo: témoins à charge contre Washington, Rue 89, 27 November 2007 (French)
  4. Statement of Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed
  5. dossier (.pdf) from Boudella el Hajj's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
  6. Marjorie Cohn (February 27, 2007). "Why Boumediene Was Wrongly Decided". The Jurist. Retrieved April 16, 2007. 
  7. dossier (.pdf) from Sabir Mahfouz Lahmar's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
  8. Guantanamo detainee is alleging he was brutalized: Suit to seek data about 6 Algerians, Boston Globe, April 13, 2005
  9. dossier (.pdf) from Mustafa Aid Idir's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
  10. dossier (.pdf) from Mohammed Nechle's Combatant Status Review Tribunal
  11. Stephen Olesky's bio at WilmerHale
  12. Rob Kirsch's bio at WilmerHale
  13. Mark C. Fleming at WilmerHale
  14. Lynne Campbell Soutter at WilmerHale
  15. "Lauren Brunswick bio". WilmerHale. Retrieved June 23, 2007. 
  16. Torture in Guantánamo, cageprisoners, April 20, 2006
  17. events 17th Concours International de Plaidoiries - Video of Melissa Hoffer's speech (.wmv)
  18. At Guantanamo, Caught in a Legal Trap: 6 Algerians Languish Despite Foreign Rulings, Dropped Charges, Washington Post, August 21, 2006
  19. 19.0 19.1 Lawyers debate 'enemy combatant' [2] Farah Stockman 2008-10-24 mirror
  20. Judge Leon's order
  21. Judge orders release of 5 terror suspects at Gitmo mirror
  22. Judge Declares Five Detainees Held Illegally
  23. US judge orders Algerians freed
  24. Documents allege Bosnian Algerians committed not to sue the U.S. [3] 2009-03-04 mirror
  25. Bosnia interested in fate of its people in Guantanamo [4] August 23, 2007

External linksEdit