Cablegate: Ambassador's 4/10 Meeting with Amnesty

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/12/2014

Classified By: Ambassador Edmund J. Hull

1. (sbu/nf) Summary: In a lengthy 4/10 meeting with
Ambassador, a four-person Amnesty International delegation
appealed for increased information and access for the
families of Yemenis detained at Guantanamo. The far-ranging
and amicable discussion included Yemen's progress on the
mutually-reinforcing goals of counter-terrorism cooperation
and human rights, the detention of Yemenis in country,
training of Yemeni law enforcement and security personnel and
the imminent trials of a number of suspects in the 2000
terrorist attack on the U.S. Cole. AI's pitch for increased
access included complaints that Washington inquiries are not
being answered and that human rights groups, pleas for
access to Guantanamo have been denied. Ambassador advised
delegation to work through and to try to improve the existing
channel provided by the International Red Cross for
information on detainees. When pressed for a conduit in
Washington on this issue, the Ambassador recommended
Ambassador Pierre Prosper (S/WCI) as an interlocutor. The
delegation was in Sana'a April 10-11 to attend a 2-day
conference on "Human Rights for All" organized by AI and a
Yemeni human rights organization. All agreed that the
discussion was off the record and that any public statement
by AI would be provided to the Ambassador for his review
prior to its release. End Summary.


2. (sbu/nf) The delegation, led by human rights campaigner
Dr. Terry Waite (well-known as a hostage negotiator illegally
detained in Lebanon for almost five years), requested the
appointment with the Ambassador to discuss the human rights
situation in Yemen post-9/11. Other delegation members were
Researcher (North America) Rob Freer, Researcher (Middle
East) Dr. Lamri Chirouf and AI USA Board of Director Member
Farah Brelvi; Pol/Econ Chief was present as notetaker. Dr.
Waite opened by stating that the families of the Guantanamo
detainees, who are being held without regard for due process,
are suffering from a lack of information and that he is also
concerned about the damage the situation is causing to the
U.S. image as a "defender of freedom and human rights."
Freer also complained that it took over a year to get a
denial in response to AI's request for access to Guantanamo.
When the delegation asked about ROYG visits to Guantanamo,
the Ambassador told them that there was one visit for both
consular and intelligence purposes.

3. (sbu/nf) The delegation spoke extensively about the
families and lawyers they interacted with at the first day of
the conference, "Human Rights for All," hosted by AI in
cooperation with the Yemeni National Organization for Defense
of Human Rights and Freedoms (HOOD). (Note: In addition to
lawyers and families of detainees, attendees included human
rights activists from the U.S., Canada, Australia and other
Gulf States.) In the opening ceremony, Amat al-Alim
al-Suswah, Minister of Human Rights, delivered a speech
noting September 11's affect on human rights and that that
Yemen has been economically and politically harmed by
terrorist acts such as the attacks on the USS Cole and the
Limburgh, a French oil tanker. (Note: Ambassador's 4/10
meeting with al-Suswah reported septel.) They also noted
that over a third of Guantanamo detainees are from Gulf
countries and estimated that there are 85 Yemenis being held.
Ambassador commented that Yemen's hosting of the event is a
positive development given the "allergy in the region to
international human rights groups."

4. (sbu/nf) Ambassador broadened the discussion to include
the improved human rights situation in Yemen and chastised
the international human rights organizations that write
reports on Yemen "at a distance," failing to focus on the
progress as well as the problems. He suggested an alternate
approach that covers the full spectrum of issues and presents
a more accurate, balanced picture. Acknowledging significant
progress on rights in Yemen over the past ten years, Dr.
Chirouf said that he fears that post-9/11 there is a risk
that these benefits will "disappear completely." When
Ambassador noted a number of areas of success, i.e., women's
freedoms, electoral reforms, more open press, membership in
international conventions, and the institutionalization of
human rights, Dr. Chirouf admitted that AI's concern is
arrests and detentions.

5. (sbu/nf) Even after the Ambassador explained that the
Department of Defense is responsible for the process at
Guantanamo, the delegation requested that he press Washington
for more information for the families. Ambassador strongly
encouraged AI and the families to work through and to try and
strengthen existing channels of communication established by
the International Red Cross (IRC), which has been given
access to Guantanamo. Freer noted dissatisfaction because
information from IRC is limited by its own policies and by
measures to address security concerns that make the system
less effective, e.g., requirements that prisoners write
letters in English, even though many lack any proficiency in
the language. When pushed to provide a name in Washington,
the Ambassador suggested AI contact Ambassador Pierre Prosper
for information on the process. He also promised to convey
the delegation's concerns on behalf of the families back to


6. (sbu/nf) Dr. Waite and Freer commented on U.S.-Yemen
security cooperation and the November 2002 drone attack that
left five dead. Ambassador emphasized that the U.S. is at
war against al-Qaida and explained that the action was taken
in full cooperation with the ROYG, against known al-Qaida
operatives after previous attempts to apprehend the
terrorists left 18 Yemenis dead. Citing the progress on both
rights and security, the Ambassador commented that Yemen is
an example of how counter-terrorism efforts and human rights
can be mutually reinforcing. Dr. Waite countered that Yemen
is detaining people and complained that it is doing so under
pressure from the U.S. Ambassador pointed out that Yemen has
repeatedly privately and publicly stated that it is in its
own security and economic interests to fight terror. After
extensive discussion, there was an agreement to disagree
given the divergent viewpoints on the balance between
security cooperation and human rights.

7. (sbu/nf) Dr. Chirouf inquired about press reports that 800
people have been arrested for making anti-American statements
at the Grand Mosque in Sana'a during Friday prayers.
Ambassador requested that AI tell anyone who asks that this
was not done at his direction and that we have not been given
any information about the incidents. Brelvi specifically
requested that the Ambassador make a statement against the


8. (sbu/nf) Dr. Chirouf also asked whether the FBI or USG law
enforcement has been permitted to interrogate the Yemenis
detained by the ROYG. Ambassador made clear that he was not
at liberty to discuss details of intelligence cooperation,
but elaborated on the U.S. role in providing programs,
training and equipment to improve law enforcement
capabilities and security information sharing.

9. (sbu/nf) Brelvi produced a letter to the Ambassador
concerning the Leahy Law requirement that Post maintain a
database on human rights violations committed by local
security forces and asked about Post's practices in this
regard. (Note: Ambassador did not receive the letter prior
to the meeting, but assured the delegation Post will review
current practices to ensure full compliance with legal
requirements.) Dr. Chirouf expressed particular concern
about the Presidential Security Office (PSO), which he claims
operates extra-judicially and is responsible for
legally-deficient deportations (reported in AI's September
2003 report) and improper detentions and interrogations.
Ambassador explained that Post carefully vets candidates for
training and U.S.-provided programming. On the issue of
deportations, the Ambassador commented that the ROYG had
sufficient cause to review the immigration status of students
and found that a number were out of status or pursuing a
course of Islamic extremism.


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