By Elvira Jukic
The European Court of Human Rights, ECHR, on February 7 ruled that Bosnia was violating human rights accords by planning to deport Imad Al-Husin, also known as Abu Hamza, a former Bosnian mujahedin, back to Syria.
The ECHR said that Bosnia was in breach of the European Human Rights Convention when it comes to Abu Hamza’s possible deportation to Syria in the present circumstances, as it would result in his likely ill treatment.
Abu Hamza was arrested on 6 October 2008 and brought to the Immigration Centre in the Sarajevo suburb of Lukavica.
He has not been released since. Bosnia started a process to expel him from the country on January 31, 2011.
The court has now determined that Abu Hamza’s right to freedom was violated regarding the period of his detention from 8 October 2008 to 31 January 2011.
The decision is final in three months’ time. If no appeal is lodged before then, the country must pay him 3,000 euro in damages, the ECHR decision said.
Abu Hamza’s family have voiced concern about his treatment in the future, saying his rights have been violated for years.
Vasa Prava, a local non-governmental organization offering legal aid to citizens, which along with an attorney represented the former fighter to the ECHR, said the NGO will continue to fight for his freedom.
“All the time that Imad Al-Husin [Abu Hamza] was detained, no concrete reason was given to him or to us about why he is considered a national security threat,” Emir Prcanovic, executive director of Vasa Prava, said on Tuesday.
Abu Hamza obtained Bosnian citizenship in 1994. In 2001 the authorities revoked it, saying that he posed a threat to national security.
Bosnian authorities and media have accused him of having links to the Islamist terror group Al Qaeda, though these claims have not been confirmed or tested in court.
The term “Mujahedin” has been widely used to refer to any Muslim foreigners who came to Bosnia during the 1992-5 war in support of the Bosnian Muslims.
Bosnia’s agent to the ECHR, Monika Mijic, told local media that although Bosnia cannot now extradite Abu Hamza to Syria, the country still may expel him to a third country.
It is believed that between 2,000 and 5,000 foreign Muslim fighters came to Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war to fight alongside local Bosniak [Muslim] soldiers.
Most either left or were expelled after the war but a few hundred married local women, had families and remained in Bosnia, like Abu Hamza.
Bosnia has been criticised before for its treatment of alleged Islamist terror suspects.
The 2012 report by the organisation Human Rights Watch noted that last March, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, criticised Bosnia’s failure to improve safeguards for national security suspects, including suspension of deportations for those at risk of torture or ill-treatment in the countries of return.
In another criticised move, Bosnia handed a group of six former Muslim fighters to the United States, who were then transported to Guantanamo prison, even though no charges had been pressed against them.