Human Rights Groups Ask U.N. To Investigate Case Of Disappeared Spanish Citizen
Father Of Four Transferred To U.S. Custody In 2005 Not Heard From Since
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NEW YORK – Human rights groups today asked two U.N. Special Rapporteurs and the U.N. Working Group on Involuntary or Enforced Disappearances to investigate the case of Mustafa Setmariam Nassar, a Spanish citizen who was forcibly disappeared almost four years ago. According to media reports, Nassar, an influential Islamic theorist, was apprehended by Pakistani officials and handed over to U.S. officials in October 2005 and has not been heard from since. In June 2009, in response to an American Civil Liberties Union request for information about Nassar's whereabouts, the CIA stated that it could "neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records" responsive to the request.
"Mr. Nassar's wife and children want to know if he is still alive and where he is," said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "Requests for information about his forced disappearance, nearly four years ago, have been ignored by the U.S. government, and his family now has no other choice but to turn to the international community for assistance in their quest."
Today's requests, filed by the ACLU, Reprieve and Alkarama, ask the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism, Martin Scheinin, and the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to raise Nassar's case with the U.S. government and other governments that may have assisted the U.S. in Nassar's disappearance or may have information that could assist in locating him.
Although information about Nassar's disappearance is scarce, the known details suggest he was a victim of the unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program, which enabled the U.S., with the assistance of other governments, to kidnap and transport foreign nationals suspected of terrorism to secret overseas detention facilities for interrogation and torture.
Official U.S. documents and media reports indicate that the U.S. had long been interested in capturing Nassar, suspecting him of involvement in certain terrorist acts but never charging him with a crime. In January 2005, months before his reported capture in Pakistan, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Nassar's capture, which was withdrawn around the time of his reported capture. The U.S. National Counterterrorism Center confirms Nassar's capture in November 2005, and media reports indicate that Nassar was later held for a time at a U.S. military base on the British-owned island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
In June 2009, responding to a request from a Spanish judge for information on Nassar's whereabouts, the FBI stated it was not holding him in the United States but failed to address whether Nassar was being held in U.S. custody elsewhere. Asserting that the information is classified, the U.S. government has also refused to answer direct requests for information about Nassar's whereabouts made by his wife, Spanish citizen Helena Moreno Cruz.
"I have been bringing up four children without their father for nearly four years now. They keep asking about dad and I have no idea what to tell them anymore – I don't even know if their father is still alive. Without knowing what has happened to my husband, I don't know where to go with my life or how to move on. The pain of not knowing is becoming unbearable and I am so concerned for my children's wellbeing if they should find out about the tragedy that we are being put through," said Cruz. "If my husband is suspected of doing anything wrong, he should get his day in court. If he isn't, he should be let go. No one deserves to be treated like this. Everywhere I turn I am denied information, so I am asking the U.N. to help bring my husband, myself and our children a little bit of justice."
Today's requests are available online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/nationalsecurity/40477res20090803.html