US decision to close Guantánamo Bay detention centre hailed by UN rights chief

22 January 2009

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has welcomed today’s decision by the new United States administration to close the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, as well as the decision to ban methods of interrogation that contravene international law.

Navi Pillay also called for a review of the US approach to detaining individuals abroad, in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the practice of ‘rendition,’ in order to ensure conformity with international law.

“The fact that President [Barack] Obama has placed such a high priority on closing Guantánamo and set in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees there is extremely encouraging,” she stated.

“The United States has in the past been a staunch supporter of international human rights law, and this is one of the reasons that the regime that was established in Guantánamo has been viewed as so damaging,” the High Commissioner added.

“Water-boarding and other forms of interrogation that may amount to torture, detention for prolonged periods without trial or proper judicial review, and what became known as ‘extraordinary rendition’ – these are all aberrations that should never have happened,” stated Ms. Pillay.

The UN’s human rights chief also welcomed the fact that President Obama’s Executive Order issued today sets a framework for regularizing the situation of the remaining detainees in Guantánamo.

She also raised the issue of compensation for those judged to be innocent and called for a thorough investigation into allegations of torture at the Guantánamo centre.

“Under international law, there is an absolute prohibition against torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” she said. “There must be accountability for those who have ordered such practices or carried them out, and victims should receive recompense.”

Ms. Pillay saluted Mr. Obama for taking such an important step so swiftly upon taking office. “This is a good day for the rule of law,” she noted.

 

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