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Bosnia admits US terrorist renditions violated human rights law

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Bosnia-Herzegovina has admitted ignoring legal norms to hand six Algerian-born men to US forces, who then flew them to the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison.

No other member of the 46-nation Council of Europe has acknowledged violating the European Convention on Human Rights by helping the US government in what the council has called a "spider's web" of abductions and transfers of terror suspects. Bosnian foreign minister Mladen Ivanic said the six men were placed in US custody on January 18th, 2002, and a "formal and legal procedure for extradition was not carried out, instead this was labelled as a 'handover'".

The day before, Bosnia's top court had ordered the men's release, and the US embassy in Sarajevo had offered "to place the alleged persons under its supervision, since it believed they had been involved in international terrorism", Mr Ivanic said.

The council said in a statement: "Bosnia-Herzegovina admitted that the applicants had simply been handed over to the custody of the US forces despite a decision by the Supreme Court ordering their immediate release."

The six men - Lakhdar Boumediene, Mohamed Nechle, Hadj Boudella, Belkacem Bensayah, Mustafa Ait Idir and Saber Lahmar - were flown to the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba, where they are still being held as so-called enemy combatants.

Police arrested the men, four of whom held Bosnian citizenship, on suspicion of planning attacks on US and UK embassies in Sarajevo and a US military base near the town of Tuzla.

Having failed to find sufficient evidence to try the men, however, Bosnian authorities tried to deport them to Algeria. When that failed, they gave them to US forces.

A lawyer for the detainees, Stephen Oleksey, told the European Parliament committee in April that he believed an aircraft arrived at Tuzla from the US military base at Ramstein in Germany, picked up his clients and continued to Turkey, where it collected more prisoners before heading for Guantanamo Bay.

He said US officials had threatened to cut aid to Bosnia unless it handed over the men.

A council report last week accused the US of co-opting European help with "renditions". It said Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Sweden and Macedonia had allowed residents to be abducted, called Poland and Romania the likely sites of secret jails, and named several states, including Ireland, as places where rendition aircraft refuelled.

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