Amnesty International Bermuda: Uighur Situation

January 23, 2013

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.

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Comments (26)

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  1. bermuda boy says:

    How much money was paid by the States to bring them here...We have a right to know...It's our Island.

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  2. Former Union Member says:

    Now that the rhetoric has subsided in the US just a little regarding these gentlemen it would seem that a quiet approach to our 'friends' to the west to accept them there might bear some fruit. It is, after all, their mess to clean up.

    Of course the unilateral action by former Premier Brown in bringing them to Bermuda isn't doing us any favors in the UK. If there was a 'quid pro quo' we shall never know about it.

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    • blankman says:

      There's no way the US can take them. One of Obama's campaign promises in 2008 was to close Gitmo. Unless he can accomplish that and, in the process, bring at least some of the inmates to the US there's no way he can consider this group.

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    • Clive Spate says:

      The Premier of Bermuda took them.

      It is Bermuda's mess I'm afraid.

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  3. Pastor Been & Gone says:

    Amnesty International Bermuda seem to have been rather selective with the UNCHR legislation articles they have chosen to highlight in their statement. The 1948 UNCHR was a statement of intent for the draft Convention which was agreed in a UN meeting in Geneva in 1951 and came into force in 1954. It related to the rights of refugees (who became refugees before 1951. The 1967 Protocol amended the Convention so that applied to all refugees regardless of when they became refugees.

    Bermudians really should be fully aware of what acceding to the UNCHR 1951 Refugee Convention (and the subsequent 1967 Protocol) would mean in reality. At the moment the UK is bound to both the convention and protocol - Bermuda is not.

    In reality the Acts mean that any country that signs up to the acts agrees to accept refugees... any number of refugees.

    Bermuda could not simply say “we’ll sign up to this Convention and offer these four Uighurs asylum in Bermuda” - because it doesn’t work like that - there’s no limit to the number of refugees that can seek asylum in a country... sign on for four (well nine now with wives and a baby) and you may find you have signed up for 400 or 4,000. Basically you can throw your immigration laws out of the window.

    Another thing that Amnesty International Bermuda conveniently fail to mention is that the 51 Convention and the 67 Protocol provide refugees, who have been accepted by a country as such, with certain rights....

    • The right to work (Articles 17 to 19)

    • The right to housing (Article 21)

    • The right to education (Article 22)

    • The right to public relief and assistance - Welfare -(Article 23)

    • The right to access the courts (Article 16)

    • The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions (Article 32)

    • The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State (Article 31)

    • The right to freedom of religion (Article 4)

    So even if Bermuda could offer refugee status to asylum-seekers (which it can’t) the government couldn’t control the number of refugees who might want to live permanently on the island. In addition those refugees would have a right to a job, a house, welfare payments and to free education from the day they set foot on the island... You also can’t send them back to where they came from... I am sure that Bermuda would provide a very attractive destination for all those weary asylum seekers.

    So beware Bermuda, it is not a case of letting these four Uighurs refugee status... sign up to the UNHCR Convention and Protocol and you’ll be opening up the floodgates for a lot of new faces of all nationalities. Be thankful that the UK never included Bermuda in the Convention & Protocol. It was very remiss that Amnesty International Bermuda didn't point out these details in their statement.

    As to alternative fates for the Uighurs – well there aren't really any. The UK will not (quite rightly) recognize them or grant them any form of Commonwealth, BOT, Bermudian or UK citizenship. The only solution is to get the US to take them and get Ewart Brown to pay them back the $400,000 (minimum) they gave him to relocate the poor lads in the first place!

    Of course if you really want to grant the Uighurs Bermudian nationality you could always go fully independent from the UK and then do it... but then you would lose your UK passports etc etc.

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    • frank says:

      stop all this stupip talk put them the illegal wives and children on a plane at night like they came in and send back to the us state department they can not stay here

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    • street wise says:

      Dr Evil would never take such a chance for a measly $400,000... more like $4,000,000+ I'd say!

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      • Pastor Been & Gone says:

        Hey street wise... please give me some credit... after all I did cover my options by saying "$400,000 (minimum)" - that covers $4,000,000+ (which is probably a more realistic estimate!

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  4. almostthere. says:

    there is nothing amnesty or anyone else in Bermuda can do for these men regarding status. We are not independent! Britian already took their quota of refugees from Guantanamo, as did other countries, Bermuda is not in a position to give a passport, so therefore cannot usurp Britians authority because that is the only way they can travel. We in Bermuda cannot invent a passport. it will not be recognized internationally and they will not be able to get on a British or U.S. flight. The Americans in all their arrogance and mission of world dominance need to take responsibility for their own mess.We need to send them back to America on a private jet and I'm sure they will be better off there than here..Bermuda is too small to be caught up in this international scandal. The idea of globilization does not include us taking in people that we can hardly afford and who don't even speak our language, and they have not been honest with the people of Bermuda about why they were picked up from the Pakistan border and what about their families? many unanswered questions.No government brought them here, One man was responsible, there is no papertrail that will justify these actions and this must not be a precedence for things to come! Wake up and tae the blinders off People, stopped being hoodwinked by words that have little or no meaning..HUMANITARIAN....the state the world is in with 1% of the population controlling the rest of the 99% through economic debt slavery is certainly not humanitarian so THINK, what is really happening here?

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  5. Verbal Kint says:

    This is a sticky wicket and clearly must depend on the UK and the US to straighten out. I do have a couple of thoughts to offer. Why is granting these men status seen as some kind of threat to opening the floodgates for other status seekers. This is clearly a one-off and should be treated that way. I have sympathy for PRC holders and other long term residents, but they were not brought here against their wills and then left here without recourse. Granting status in this case should not have to set a precedent.
    Also, I'm not sure that Dr. Brown and Lt. Col. Burch should not be tried under international law for essentially denying these men their right to citizenship. They have, for all practical purposes been enslaved here. Why is that not seen as a violation of their human rights?

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    • tricks are for kids says:

      I agree....

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      • James Rego says:

        Brown and Burch smuggled these men into Bermuda!

        Brown and Burch should have been / should be charged with smuggling / human trafficking!

        What do you think would happen to you or me if we were to sneak someone into Bermuda? Why is there two sets of rules which depends on who you are?

        Our former Governor was spineless and that’s why this mess is still festering. They should have been charged immediately upon discovery

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  6. Amsterdamned says:

    I want to know why guys from china who got caught red handed training at a jihad camp were allowed into bermuda in the 1st place.... what kind of crooked scumbags would put them in the community without ever having mentioned it to the people.... and in the dead of night. Shine a light on it and the roaches will scatter

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    • swing voter says:

      I listened to kernal klutz on 102.5 yesterday and as with all of the BnB scandals, nothing in writing, no evidence to consider, no money trail to follow, only 4 stateless men, a broken cruise ship wharf, pay to play schemes, hidden agenda immigration policies and countless other FnF contracts on BDA Govt letterhead.....the unwritten backroom deals only amount to "he said he said".....dose bies are smart ;-)

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  7. Bermy Gooner says:

    Just for clarification this matter should not fall at the feet of the PLP.

    Sole responsibility must be retained by Dr. Brown and Col. Burch for this underhanded and unconstitutional action, which is now resulting in (possibly) unintended consequences.

    When these two individuals took it upon themselves to disregard collective Cabinet responsibility and the Bermuda constitution, they did it themselves and themselves only.

    While I agree the PLP did mess up on a lot of things, this particular action cannot be landed at their feet.

    If you want to criticize the PLP it should be due to the fact that there were not more resignations which occurred over this incident and the fact that they continued to allow Dr. Brown to be the so called "leader" of the PLP and Bermuda.

    This issue has arisen due to the actions of two individuals and it should be on their shoulders (cause they definitely have no conscience) to resolve any outstanding issues. Bermuda and Bermudians should not suffer due to the dictatorial actions of Dr. Brown and Col. Burch.

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    • Verbal Kint says:

      The PLP should have dealt with their rubbish when they had the chance. Instead, the party faithful vilified the few party members who stood up to Dr. Brown. The PLP is not to blame for the Uighur affair, but they ARE responsible for its aftermath. They gutted the party of its conscience in order to protect the Dr. and themselves.

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  8. Rock Watcher says:

    A real mess it is indeed! The UK, it seems, are very unlikely to allow
    the 4 UK passports or allow them to obtain Bermudian ones either, they
    should go back to the US for them to sort out!
    Also, why in God's name would any off them even consider having kids when they
    have no idea when or where they will be going!

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  9. enough says:

    Of course the PLP must be held responsible. Dr Brown was the leader of the party, and Col Burch was the minister of immigration. The PLP selected Dr Brown to be the leader so they must bear responsibility.

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  10. Foxy says:

    Dr. Brown arrogantly broke all laws to score a political point globally. He wanted to garner cool points with Obama who was looking for someone to support his initiative to place these people out of their prior location. It was again all about EWART!...We were not consulted, informed or respected. He cleverly put us in a ditch and then ditched us. His optical illusions with smoke and mirrors are running thin. He did nothing to move this country forward. NOTHING! HE is a disgrace to all black men that supported him with his rhetoric. IT was about seducing people into a position of trust so that he can get the purse strings and then he abandoned black people. Everyone was expandable. He kicked all of his ministers to the curb and he destroyed relationships and built convenient business deals. He was a selfish greedy abuser. We are left to clean up his mess. As for these men...they need to go back to CHina or USA or ENGLAND or CUBA...Not Bermuda! We need to protect our shores too...Even from the likes of EWART and BURCH!

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  11. Andrew A. says:

    This is quite interesting, I was born in Bermuda and lived there my whole life and yet I only get Permanent Residence because neither of my parents are Bermudian. Then the Uighurs that have no ties to Bermuda are in the process of getting Bermudian status.

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