GENEVA (23 February 2021) – UN experts* said today the US Administration's review of how to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre should also address ongoing violations of human rights being committed against the 40 remaining detainees, including torture and other ill- treatment.
"We welcome the goal of closing the detention facility, consistent with our previous calls to end impunity for the human rights and humanitarian law violations committed during the 'war on terror'. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looms, we urge a transparent, comprehensive, and accountability-focused review of the operation and legacy of the prison and the military commissions," the experts said.
US President Joe Biden announced this month that his Administration would study how it could shut down Guantanamo, as was first promised by former president Barack Obama.
The experts said many of the remaining detainees are vulnerable and now elderly individuals whose physical and mental integrity has been compromised by unending deprivation of freedom and related physical and psychological torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. "We stress the need to repudiate the policies of and practices that led to the creation of the prison and the military commissions, in order to prevent recurrence of practices that are in clear breach of international law."
The experts also said it was essential that those who had been subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and denied fundamental rights under international law, including right to a fair trial, were given adequate remedy and reparation. Experts called on the US authorities to ensure independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions of all credible allegations of violations committed in this context, such as extraordinary rendition, torture, secret detention and e unfair trial.
"Many of the individuals currently and previously held at Guantanamo Bay have spent the bulk of their lives in a Kafkaesque situation where the rule of law was meaningless and the coercive and brutal power of the State ascendant," the UN experts said. They stressed the need to enable and support human rights compliant resettlement of the remaining detainees.
"Democracies can and should do better and the United States must clearly put this dark chapter in its history behind it and demonstrate that it is not only prepared to close the prison facilities but ensure that such practices cannot be used again, and that the crimes committed there will not remain unpunished," the experts said.
*The experts: Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Chair), Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius, (Vice Chair), Mr. Luciano Hazan, Mr. Bernard Duhaime, and Ms. Aua Balde,, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Leigh Toomey (Chair-Rapporteur), Elina Steinerte (Vice-Chair), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, Mumba Malila, Seong-Phil Hong, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;Fabian Salvioli, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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