20 years later, the US has to close the “ugly” Guantanamo chapter: UN experts

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Geneva (AFP) – Two decades after the arrival of the first prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, a group of UN experts called on Washington on Monday to finally close the site of the “relentless human rights violations”.

More than a dozen independent UN legal experts expressed their outrage that the military prison in Cuba, built after the September 2001 attacks to house prisoners in the US “war on terror”, was still operating.

They described the US Navy-operated internment camp, which was first opened to detainees on January 10, 2002, as a place of “unprecedented notoriety” and a “stain” for Washington’s avowed commitment to the rule of law.

“Twenty years of arbitrary detention without trial, accompanied by torture or ill-treatment is simply unacceptable to any government, especially a government that has a declared right to the protection of human rights,” a statement said.

Two UN Working Groups on Enforced Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention and five independent human rights experts called on the US government to close the site, return detainees to their homes or safe third countries, and provide redress and redress for their torture and arbitrary detention.

As a newly appointed member of the UN Human Rights Council, it is particularly important for the USA to “close this ugly chapter of relentless human rights violations,” said the experts appointed by the council, but do not comment on this on behalf of the UN.

“Systematic use of torture”

Guantánamo Prison once held nearly 800 people who were seized worldwide and transported to the Cuban facility. Today there are 39 men in Guantánamo Prison, some of them from the first few months after it opened.

Amnesty International members are calling for the Guantanamo Bay prison at the US embassy in Brussels to be closed NILS QUINTELIER BELGA / AFP / FILE

Of them, 13 have been cleared for rendition – although finding a place to send them or to make arrangements for their return to their home countries has been found to be very slow.

Fourteen others are seeking their release; 10 are in a process or waiting for a process; and two others were convicted.

Some of those who remained were tortured by CIA interrogators in the first years of the September 11 detention program.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that President Joe Biden plans to close Guantanamo Prison, although it remains a deeply controversial political issue.

“I will tell you that the administration remains committed to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center,” Kirby told reporters.

“We are currently in a review of how to proceed,” he said, in a process involving the White House, the US military, the Department of Justice, the State Department and other agencies.

– ‘Legal Black Hole’-

The UN experts criticized, however, that the US judiciary had failed to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law, thereby “allowing a legal black hole to flourish in Guantanamo”.

“Guantanamo Bay is a place of unparalleled fame, defined by the systematic use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of hundreds of men who have been brought to the site and deprived of their most basic rights,” they said.

The experts pointed out that nine inmates died in custody between 2002 and 2021 – seven of them allegedly by suicide. No one has been charged with a crime, it said.

They insisted that those who tortured and tortured in Guantanamo should be brought to justice.

“When a state fails to hold accountable those who have authorized and practiced torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, it sends a signal of complacency and tolerance to the world,” they said.

The experts expressed their alarm that military commissions were still going through preliminary trials on requests to stop allegations of torture.

“The persistent injustice of the trial,” they said, “taints the United States’ avowed commitment to the rule of law and the protection of the Constitution.”

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