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UN rights chief speaks out against US failure to close Guantanamo detention facility

UN rights chief speaks out against US failure to close Guantanamo detention facility

Aerial view of Guantánamo Bay
The United Nations human rights chief today spoke out against the failure by the United States to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and to ensure accountability for serious violations – including torture – that took place there.

“It is 10 years since the US Government opened the prison at Guantanamo, and now three years since 22 January 2009, when the President ordered its closure within 12 months,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated in a news release.

“Yet the facility continues to exist and individuals remain arbitrarily detained – indefinitely – in clear breach of international law,” she added.

Ms. Pillay voiced disappointment that instead of closing the facility, the US Government has “entrenched” a system of arbitrary detention, with the new National Defense Authorization Act. Signed into law last month, the Act now effectively codifies 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,” she stated.

While fully recognizing the right and duty of States to protect their people and territory from terrorist acts, she reminded the US Government of its obligation under international human rights law to ensure that individuals deprived of their liberty can have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed before a court.

“Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.”

Ms. Pillay also stressed that individuals found to have perpetrated, ordered, tolerated or condoned torture and ill-treatment should be brought to justice, and urged the Government, so long as Guantanamo remains open, to ensure that conditions of detention comply fully with human rights standards under international law.

She said she was disturbed by the Government’s failure to allow independent human rights monitoring of the detention conditions at Guantanamo.