ACLU Files Complaint with United Nations in Geneva Seeking Justice for Immigrants Detained and Deported after 9/11

January 27, 2004 12:00 am

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New Report on “America’s Disappeared” Details Devastating Effects of Bush Administration’s Arbitrary Detention Policies


Khurram Altaf

Khurram Altaf, a taxpaying U.S. resident for 18 years, was detained and deported to Pakistan without ever seeing a judge. He was forced to leave behind his 9-year-old daughter Anza, a U.S. citizen who needs medical care not available in Pakistan.

GENEVA/NEW YORK- In its first-ever official submission to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the American Civil Liberties Union today presented an official complaint to the United Nations on behalf of immigrants imprisoned and deported from the United States after 9/11.

The Complaint, presented to UNWGAD at a press briefing this morning at the UN in Geneva, with a follow-up briefing in New York, calls on the United States government to maintain its high standards of justice for all despite the threat of terrorism.

“We are filing this complaint before the United Nations to ensure that U.S. policies and practices reflect not just domestic constitutional standards, but accepted international human rights principles regarding liberty and its deprivations,” said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, at the Geneva press briefing.

“With today’s action, we are sending a strong message of solidarity to advocates in other countries who have decried the impact of U.S. policies on the human rights of their citizens,” Romero added. “The ACLU will go where it must to seek justice for the men who were unfairly detained and deported by the U.S. government after September 11.”

Romero and ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer were joined at the Geneva press conference by Khurram Altaf, a deportee now in Pakistan after 18 years residence in the United States.

Altaf, manager of a large truck stop in New Jersey and father of three American-born children, was deported in 2002 following two months of detention. After a year’s separation, his wife and two children joined him in Rawalpindi, where he now operates a small grocery store. A third daughter, Anza, was born deaf and has remained in the United States under the care of her uncle and extended family. His family misses her terribly, he said. “Anytime we talk to her – with the implant, she hears and speaks – they cry. And she does too.” Altaf’s brother Azim and his daughter Anza, who are both currently living in New Jersey, spoke at the UN press briefing today in New York.

In the weeks following the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, US government officials have admitted to detaining 765 Arab American and Muslim immigrants without charges, without access to attorneys and, in many cases, without access to their own family members. The government acknowledged deporting a total of 478 of these immigrants. Efforts to identify detainees or investigate charges against them were rejected by U.S. government officials.

The ACLU Complaint alleges that the United States government arbitrarily and indiscriminately arrested immigrants unconnected to terrorism or crime. Many languished in jail – sometimes in solitary confinement – for weeks and sometimes months, and the government refused to release them even when it became clear they were innocent of any charges related to terrorism.

Through independent research, and with the cooperation of the Pakistani Embassy, the ACLU was able to identify a number of Pakistani immigrants then imprisoned and/or deported. In November 2002, representatives of the ACLU traveled to Pakistan to interview several of the deportees.

A new report released today, America’s Disappeared: Seeking International Justice For Immigrants Detained After September 11, details the ACLU’s involvement in the issue since September 11, 2001 and tells the story of many of those imprisoned and deported.

The Complaint was filed by ACLU attorneys Jaffer, Ann Beeson, Omar Jadwat, Lee Gelernt and Brigette Pak, with the assistance of Catherine M. Amirfar and Lisa Howley of the New York law firm Debevoise and Plimpton.

The report is available online at
The Complaint is available at


List of complainants (along with country of origin and age) for the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention:

Ahmad H. Abualeinen, Jordan, 58
Khaled Raji Said Albitar, Jordan, 34
Zulfigar Ali, Pakistan, 34
Khurram Altaf, Pakistan, 36
Sadek Awaed, Egypt, 32
Benamar Benatta, Algeria, 28
Mohamed M. Elzaher, Egypt, 31
Ansar Mahmood, Pakistan, 26
Anser Mehmood, Pakistan, 44
Noor Hussain Raza, Pakistan, 63
Khaled K. Abu-Shabayek, Jordan, 40
Naeem Sheikh, Pakistan, 32
Sarwar Yamen, Afghanistan, 35

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