An Algerian national security detainee speaks out against his indefinite detention in the UK.
On 12 January, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), will hear from the lawyers for Reda Dendani, an Algerian national security detainee. He was first held under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act provisions which were declared illegal by the House of Lords in December 2004, then on his release in March 2005 he was made subject to a control order under conditions which were subsequently held to be unlawful (in other similar cases), and he was re-detained in August 2005, for deportation to Algeria (a country where the British government accepts torture is used systematically against political detainees).
Reda Dendani has never been given full details of the national security allegations against him. Initially he used another identity but in July 2005, a month before the decision to deport him, he gave the Home Office full details of his true identity, with supporting documentation. Although the Home Office decided to deport him in August 2005, nothing was done to ensure that he could actually be returned to Algeria, i.e. that the Algerian authorities would accept him – until March 2006 when, in despair over his Kafkaesque situation, he withdrew his appeal and asked to be sent back to Algeria as quickly as possible. Since that time he has waited in Long Lartin prison, in category A conditions – but ten months later he’s still there, completely in the dark as to why. His application for habeas corpus and judicial review of his continuing detention was rejected in November. Below we publish an open letter from him.
‘I shall start this letter by announcing that I refuse to be called “Q” any more. I am Reda Dendani, 31, Algerian national, married and have a stepdaughter of 7. I’ve been living in the UK since 1998 as an asylum seeker. Calling me “Q” was not designed by the Home Office to protect me from the public. It was the opposite in fact. Labelling me like an object concealed the human being I am and facilitated the grip of allegations from the Home Office in the media.
The Home Office issued me with a deportation order 16 months ago on 11 August 2005. This was after I had spent two and a half years in Woodhill and Belmarsh prisons, then freed on control orders after the House of Lords made my detention illegal under the Anti Terrorism Act 2001 on December 2004.
Basically the Home Office regards me as a suspected terrorist, a threat to national security, a dangerous man – my presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good … These are big words, very shocking and frightening – well designed for the media but not supported by any proof or evidence – just allegations! This has destroyed my life. I would have been prosecuted if a fraction of what was alleged were true, as I was for a far lesser offence on which I pleaded guilty. This is to say there are enough laws to face any criminal in the UK but if you cannot prosecute someone it is simply because he is innocent and as such must be free to go.
I’ve paid for the offence enough; it hurts when you read on the bottom of the Home Office letters “Building a Safe, Just and Tolerant Society” or under the logo of the Treasury Solicitors, “Law at the Heart of Government”.
The Home Office has forgotten these guidelines and trespassed its limits by ordering my detention in a high security prison against my will without any charge. This illegal detention has been a problem and still is for the prison because of no clear status where all other prisoners are convicted and me and other foreigners are not.
The Home Office, in a move that is the mother of all hypocrisy, is offering me a way to appeal against its decision through a special court called SIAC. It is enough to read what Amnesty International’s 2006 report has said about the UK and it human rights in this SIAC. I’m not allowed to know and therefore to cross-examine what is held against me. Madness – a crazy situation. I’m fighting a ghost. Whatever I say there is always closed sessions where I’m not allowed in nor my solicitor. This is an affront to the fundamental justice system.
Because of this, I’ve stopped resisting my deportation. Better for me to face Algerian authorities – more straightforward than this Chinese torture made in UK. I’ve signed all the necessary papers for this deportation. I’ve seen both the UK representative and his Algerian counterpart in the prison I’m held in. This was 9 months ago on 24 March 2006. The new crazy thing is I’m still in prison in the UK. It is such nonsense that I’ve taken the Home Office to court to force it to proceed with the deportation. I thought because it was High Court not “SIAC” I will see justice done. My problem is now very simple. The Home Office wants to deport me to Algeria and I accept to be deported to Algeria. My case was dismissed on 3 October 2006 and the court reserved its reasons for the decision.
What is going on? If this is not a Police State, what is one? A foreigner in this country is a synonym for a criminal; a second-class citizen. The facts speak for themselves and changing the name of things or giving them the cover of the law doesn’t changes their reality. That is: I’m a HOSTAGE in this country. I’m held against my will. I’m in UK’s version of Guantanamo. Prove me wrong!’
Another detainee is suffering from the effects of anti-terror legislation. On 10 January, at the High Court, the appeal of a Palestinian refugee was dramatically adjourned as Mahmoud Abu Rideh threatened to self-harm during the proceedings. Lawyers for Mahmoud Abu Rideh argued that the cumulative effects of the control order (curfews, no internet access and restricted visitors) were inhuman and degrading and breached rights to private life.