Monday, January 24

Human rights experts: The dark chapter at Guantanamo must end

It is 20 years since the first prisoners were transported to Guantánamo. UN experts are asking the United States to close the camp – notorious for its human rights violations.

Prisoners from Afghanistan are seen in their cells at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on January 11, 2002. At that time, there were 158 al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners in the camp, and there were now hundreds. Today there are 39 prisoners left.

It was on January 10, 2002 that the US base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba was used as a prison for people arrested during the “war on terror”. It was established after the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the prison camp became the place where the United States placed suspected terrorists arrested in various operations around the world.

20 years later, human rights experts react strongly to the fact that the prison camp is still operational. Dozens of independent UN experts and five other independent human rights experts describe the detention center as a major disgrace to the rule of law in the United States.

Last year, US President Joe Biden re-entered the country into the UN Human Rights Council, after former President Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the council in 2018. Experts believe this obliges Biden to action.

Completely unacceptable

– The United States has practiced twenty years of arbitrary detention of people without legal treatment. There has been extensive use of torture or ill-treatment. It is simply unacceptable for any government – and especially a government that has declared that it will protect human rights, it is said in the joint statement from the experts.

A prisoner in the Guantánamo camp kneels in prayer. It is now 20 years since the camp received the first prisoners from the war on terror.

The expert group is now asking the US government to close the place, return the last prisoners to their home country or to safe third countries – and provide redress to all who are subjected to torture and arbitrary imprisonment.

– As a newly registered member of the UN Human Rights Council, it is especially important that the United States closes this ugly chapter with persistent violations of human rights, it is said from the expert group.

The group has been appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, but does not speak on behalf of the UN.

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Systematic use of torture

During these 20 years, nearly 800 people have been held captive in the camp. Today there are only 39 men left, but some of them have actually been sitting here since the beginning.

Of these 39, 13 have been cleared for transfer to another country. But it has proved to be a slow and difficult process to get the home countries or other countries to accept them.

In this archive photo from February 6, 2002, a prisoner in the Guantánamo camp is seen being escorted by military police on their way to an interrogation. Many of the prisoners were subjected to torture and other inhuman treatment.

14 others are trying to be released; 10 are about to be put on trial or are waiting to be put on trial, and two others have been convicted.

Several of the detainees still at Guantánamo were tortured by the CIA in the early years.

U.S. Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said this week that President Biden wants to close Guantánamo Prison, although it is still a highly controversial political issue in the United States.

– The administration is constantly determined to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. We are in the process of looking at the way forward, he says.

Kirby adds that the process involves the White House, the US military, the Department of Justice, the State Department and other agencies.

The conditions of imprisonment at Guantánamo have been heavily criticized. An expert group on human rights is now demanding that the United States close the base, which still has 39 prisoners.

Must be brought to justice

The group of human rights experts believes that those who had authority and participated in the torture at Guantánamo must be brought to justice.

If a state governed by the rule of law fails to hold accountable those who have accepted and practiced torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it sends a very unfortunate signal to the rest of the world, the statement said.

The fact that the United States has still not provided justice is an ugly stain on the United States’ stated obligation as a state governed by the rule of law, according to experts. A rule of law should give people constitutional protection, the group believes, pointing out that Guantánamo has been a place where hundreds of men have been deprived of their most basic rights.

Experts also point out that nine prisoners died in the camp between 2002 and 2021. Seven of them are said to have committed suicide. None of these were charged with any crime.

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