UN Committee against Torture refuses to examine Belgium’s role in torture of former Guantánamo detainee

USA – Guantánamo – Belgium

The UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva refuses to examine the torture suffered by Belgian citizen and former Guantánamo detainee Mosa Zemmouri. The complaint (individual communication) against Belgium had been submitted by ECCHR and its partner lawyers in Belgium, Walter van Steenbrugge and Christophe Marchand, in January 2017. In August 2019, the CAT refused the complaint as inadmissible.


Mosa Zemmouri was detained at the US military base in Guantánamo Bay from 2002 to 2005, where he was subjected to brutal beatings as well as sensory deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures and other severe forms of physical and psychological abuse.

In their submission to the UN committee, Zemmouri, the lawyers and ECCHR argue that Belgian officials were complicit in the abuse, that Belgium knew about the torture but failed to prevent it, and that Belgian authorities subsequently failed to carry out adequate investigations into the crimes. The committee refused the complaint as inadmissible stating the case had already been sufficiently examined by the European Court of Human Rights.


The complaint was filed on the 15th anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees to Guantánamo Bay in the early days of the US administration’s “war on terror,” the beginning of a global system of US military and CIA torture carried out with the complicity of several states in Europe and around the world. The complaint against Belgium is part of broader efforts to uphold the ban on torture by bringing criminal proceedings against perpetrators.


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Individual complaints

Individuals complaints allow persons or groups to enforce their rights.

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Double standards

Decision makers in Western democracies often apply double standards when it comes to human rights. While the Global North will condemn and in some cases prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Global South, there is little appetite to examine the role played by Western politicians, military leaders and corporations in crimes against international law.

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