Noting that the call for the Uighurs to receive Bermuda status is a sore subject, Amnesty International Bermuda said they support a dialogue to find an equitable solution for all.
Lawyer Richard Horseman recently wrote to Premier Craig Cannonier suggesting that the Bermuda Government pass legislation that will grant the Uighurs, their spouses and children Bermuda status.
According to Mr Horseman, the four men were told that after one year in Bermuda, they would obtain citizenship and have passports. He said the Uighurs relied on these assurances, and “made a leap of faith and boarded the plane to Bermuda” back in 2009.
Former Premier Dr Ewart Brown and former Cabinet Minister Lt/Col David Burch said they “categorically deny” they reassured anyone that they would provide Bermuda status to the men, and said they “could not give what we were not empowered to give.”
“While the situation of these Uighur men is an unfortunate one because of their inability to travel, most would agree that temporary asylum in Bermuda is better than certain death in China, the interrogation rooms of Guantanamo, or the caves and hills of Afghanistan,” a joint statement issued by Dr Brown and Lt/Col Burch said.
The four men [Khaleel Mamut, Abdulla Abdulqadir, Salahidin Abdulahat, Ablikim Turahun] were released from the US detention centre at Guantanamo and resettled in Bermuda in 2009.
They were part of a group of Chinese nationals handed over to American forces in Afghanistan, but found not to be “enemy combatants” and cleared of any and all charges. They were not repatriated to China due to fears of their safety upon return.
The four men landed in Bermuda at around 6am on a private jet, with Bermudians being made aware of their arrival a few hours later. Controversy erupted after they arrived, with protests held locally, and the British Government expressing its displeasure, stating that due to our status as an overseas territory the UK should have been consulted on the move.
In 2010, Dr Brown said the “Government of Bermuda was neither offered nor received any money in exchange for taking on the Uighurs from the United States. The US did however agree to pay for relocation expenses up to $100k per man.”
The full statement from Amnesty International Bermuda is below:
Where an issue is emotive or gives rise to emotional responses we have a joint responsibility to (1) put ourselves in the shoes of the party that is seeking a level playing field and (2) we should always remember the facts.
The facts: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the accepted foundation of international human rights law; adopted by the UN General Assembly in Geneva on 10th December 1948.
The UDHR consists of 30 Articles and represents the universal recognition that basic rights and fundamental freedoms are inherent to all human beings, and that every one of us is born free and equal in dignity and rights. Bermuda subscribes to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
Article 13, (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2). Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14, (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution. (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15 (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of others: Bermudians have always enjoyed travelling and to curtail that is a true curtailment of freedom. When offering the Uighurs asylum in Bermuda, we believe the intent was to provide them with a fresh start and grant them their basic human rights under the UDHR.
The call for issuance of Bermuda status is a sore subject for many residents who have been denied same over the years and understandably so. Amnesty International supports a dialogue to address this inequity which should move the country and its inhabitants to an equitable solution for all.