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International Human Rights Experts Call For Guantanamo Bay Closure

On January 11, human rights experts from the United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), called on the United States to promptly close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and end impunity for abuses in the so-called ‘global war on terror’ such as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and extraordinary rendition.

“The United States must clean up its own house – impunity only generates more abuses as states do not feel compelled to stop engaging in illegal practices,” the experts said in an open letter published January 11, 14 years after the detention center became operational.

“Long-term security can be regained if a page is turned on this dark chapter of post-9/11 practices in response to terrorism,” they noted, referring to the ‘war on terror’ launched after Al Qaeda’s deadly attacks on New York and Washington on September, 11 2001.

“Everyone implicated, including at the highest level of authority, must be held accountable for ordering or executing extraordinary renditions, secret detention, arbitrary arrest of civilians and so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the name of combatting terrorism,” they said in a press statement announcing release of the letter.

The experts recalled that close to 100 detainees remain in GITMO after years of arbitrary detention without trial, outside the rule of law and the reach of the US courts, despite an executive order issued by President Obama in January 2009 to release or transfer them and close the facility within one year.

“They are the forgotten ones as the United States moves from a ‘war on terror’ to a ‘war on extremism,’ without having acknowledged, reflected and made amends for past violations of fundamental human rights,” they stressed.

The experts called for an immediate end to the prolonged arbitrary detention of all Guantánamo Bay detainees by releasing them to their home country or to a third country should they be at risk of persecution, or transferring them to regular detention centers on the US mainland so they can be prosecuted before ordinary courts.

“The US government must also ensure that current and former Guantánamo detainees as well as individuals who have been secretly detained have access to full redress for violations of their freedom from arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment,” they stressed.

The signatories included the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez; on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson; on independence of the judiciary, Mónica Pinto; the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong; and the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Michael Georg Link.

Four years ago, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke out against the failure to close the facility despite Obama’s order and to ensure accountability, citing it as a clear breach of international law.

Pillay voiced disappointment that instead of closing the facility, the US Government had “entrenched” a system of arbitrary detention, with the new National Defense Authorization Act signed into law effectively codifying such indefinite military detention without charge or trial.

“This piece of legislation contravenes some of the most fundamental tenets of justice and human rights, namely the right to a fair trial and the right not to be arbitrarily detained. Nobody should ever be held for years on end without being tried and convicted, or released,” Pillay stated. “Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.”

On November, 10 2015, ODIHR issued a report on the Human Rights Situation of Detainees at Guantanamo, which examines a broad range of human rights issues, identifies violations of OSCE commitments and other international human rights standards, and offers recommendations to address them.

The November report also called on the US to close the detention facility and to either bring the remaining detainees to trial or free them and for a full investigation of past human rights violations and the prosecution of those responsible, as a way of strengthening the country’s counterterrorism efforts.

 

 

 

 

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