Just 22 years old at the time of his capture, Nabil, who spent much of his childhood in France and has close family there, was cleared for release under the Bush administration, but was never freed from Guantánamo because of long-standing fears about returning him to Algeria, and also because of inertia on the part of the French government, which has refused to offer him a new home. Now, however, he is at risk of being forcibly repatriated to Algeria after the US Supreme Court refused to intervene to prevent him and other cleared Algerian prisoners — including former British resident Ahmed Belbacha — from being transferred against their will, as happened in July with another Algerian, Abdul Aziz Naji.
Reprieve reports that, since March 2008, “no fewer than fourteen approaches have been made to the French government by Reprieve and by the Hadjarab family, but France has never made its official position towards Nabil clear.”
This is a sad state of affairs, given that President Sarkozy offered new homes last year to two other Algerians who feared repatriation, and who, in addition, did not even have a prior connection to France. These, however, were more high-profile cases than Nabil, whose release, it seems, would not provide the French President with such an obvious opportunity to be seen as a humanitarian saviour.
In a letter to President Sarkozy in June 2009, Nabil’s uncle Ahmed Hadjarab, a French citizen, asked the President “to welcome his nephew as a tribute to the great sacrifice that Nabil’s father, Said Hadjarab, made for France and for General de Gaulle during the war against Algeria,” as Reprieve explained.
In the letter, Ahmed Hadjarab wrote, “It seems to me that if the General were still here, he would have welcomed my request. He would probably have thought that after all that Nabil’s father did for France, it was difficult to consider his son as a stranger.”
Despite this appeal, however, Reprieve noted, “So far neither the French nor the US authorities have shown any inclination to assist Nabil Hadjarab or his family.”
Nabil’s letter to President Sarkozy is posted below:
Dear President Sarkozy,
My lawyers have informed me that there is not much that can be done now to prevent my immediate repatriation to Algeria, even though it will be against my will.
Although they have sought help from the American courts, it seems there is little to be found there. So I write this letter to you hoping that you will give my situation some consideration and rescue me from a terrible fate.
I have spent over eight years in this prison without any charges being brought against me. Despite this, the American courts have done nothing to stop the US administration from sending me wherever they want, without any consideration given to the fate awaiting me there.
In Algeria, I have no one that I can turn to, who could help me to get back on my feet after so many years of being kicked down. I will be left on my own, without a job or any resources.
Having spent so long in such an isolating place, I do not want to find myself alone again, in a position where I must beg for charity. The most important thing to me is dignity. My dignity has been taken away from me during the eight years that I have been imprisoned, suffering so many abuses that I do not even wish to discuss. Today I need your help to get it back.
Mr. President, you may think that all of this is not your problem, and you may be right. My fate does not seem to concern the US authorities either. But my fate does matter to my family, most of whom are citizens in your country.
My father and my uncle both worked hard in France all their lives and gave everything they had to your country. They lived in dignity, never unemployed or dependent on the state. They accomplished hard tasks without ever complaining.
I wish to follow their examples and make my family and France proud of me. I know that, if given the chance, I will be a model citizen and will not disappoint you. All I need is a little help — after so many years away from the outside world I won’t be able to do it all on my own. My uncle in France has promised to help me, and with a bit of support and time, I know I will be able to rebuild my life.
In publicizing Nabil’s letter, Polly Rossdale, of Reprieve’s Life After Guantánamo team, said, “Rebuilding one’s life after years of abuse and unlawful detention in Guantánamo is a huge challenge [but] one of the things that makes that challenge achievable is having the love and support of family. France is Nabil’s family home; France is where he has the best chance of getting back on his feet and recovering from the pain of many lost years.”
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Legal Director, added, “An urgent and sensitive intervention from the President is now Nabil’s best chance for a new life in safety with his family. This is no longer simply a legal matter — it is a question of honour and humanity.”
As Ramadan ends, please write to President Sarkozy to ask him to offer a home in France to Nabil Hadjarab. You can send a message via the Presidential website, or write to:
Président Nicolas Sarkozy
Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l’Elysée
55, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008, Paris, France
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
As published exclusively on Cageprisoners.
Over on Facebook, Spencer Spratley wrote:
Cleared for release and nowhere to go. Tragic. A free man forced to live in captivity.
[…] by a bomb and taken to a hospital in Jalalabad, where he was sold to US forces. As I explained in a recent article, Hadjarab was cleared for release from Guantánamo under the Bush administration, but was not freed […]
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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