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Amnesty: Five remain “imprisoned in paradise”

Bermuda's Uighurs deserve the “basic human right” to travel and the public should write to the Premier asking that they be given it, according to Amnesty International.

Suzanne Wilson, executive director of the local branch of the human rights charity, said the fact that the men — who arrived here from Guantánamo Bay five years ago today — remained stateless was a sad indictment on the Island.

“Life is certainly better here than in Guantánamo. Five years on, our guest Uighurs are heading towards middle age, with the responsibilities of family and the normal wish to improve their lot, but they still lack a basic human right: the right of freedom to travel,” Ms Wilson said.

“Our guests are stateless in paradise. After five years, it is time to resolve this issue.”

Ms Wilson said the men came here in 2009 at a time when guest workers were voting with their feet and leaving, before the recession hit.

“A wise man or woman would say that it was not the time to move to Bermuda,” she said. “But wait a minute ... if you had been a young man avoiding Chinese overlords and corralled for cash as potential information sources, moved halfway round the world, imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for seven years and on early release as being a non-threat, wouldn't Bermuda look like paradise? Yes, and it did.”

She said many might consider that being “imprisoned in paradise, free to marry, to work, to roam” was not so bad. But she added: “It is, if you put yourself in their shoes. How many of us travel each year? They cannot move.

“Little things can move mountains and we ask that you write to the new Premier asking him to make the basic freedom and human right to travel a cause to champion in his stewardship of Bermuda. If, in another five years nothing has changed, we will be remiss. Bermuda can do better, so much more, for its guests.”

UK Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds said in April last year that the Uighurs were a “matter for the Bermuda Government” and not one for the “United Kingdom Government”.

But Governor George Fergusson said the following month that the “position of the four men, through no fault of their own, is one which the British Government is keen to see resolved satisfactorily for all concerned”.

The men were among 22 Uighurs who were detained by the US at Guantánamo but could not be sent back to China because of the threat that they might be tortured or killed there.

Congress enacted restrictions preventing them being settled in the US, and Bermuda was one of several countries which offered them refuge. According to US Consul General Bob Settje, the US and UK continue to discuss the issue.

“Our position with regard to the Uighurs and their future has not changed,” Mr Settje said yesterday. “The United States and the UK continue to discuss their situation with the hope of finding a solution that is acceptable to all involved.

“We are not yet at the point where we can predict how much longer that process might take.”

Former Guantanamo Bay detainees Salahidin Abdulahad, Abdulla Abdulqadir, his son Muhammad, Ablikim Turahun, his son Ali, and Khalil Mamut. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published June 11, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 11, 2014 at 12:38 am)

Amnesty: Five remain “imprisoned in paradise”

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