HAVANA TIMES – On Monday January 10th, United Nations experts condemned human rights violations and the immunity with which people are detained at the US prison complex in Guantanamo, on the island of Cuba, on the 20th anniversary since the first prisoners arrived at the facility.
Guantánamo “is a site of unparalleled notoriety, defined by the systematic use of torture, and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment against hundreds of men brought to the site and deprived of their most fundamental rights,” these human rights experts said in their statement.
According to the experts, “two decades of practising arbitrary detention without trial accompanied by torture or ill treatment is simply unacceptable for any government, particularly a government which has a stated claim to protecting human rights.”
“As a newly elected member of the Council, experts are once again asking the United States to close this facility and to end this ugly chapter of relentless human rights violations,” they added.
The independent experts are working under the umbrella of the UN Human Rights Council, based in this Swiss city.
They include Fionnuala Ni Aolain, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & Counter-Terrorism; Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Siobhan Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.
Alongside them are Morris Tidball-Binz, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
At its naval base on occupied territory in Guantanamo, Cuba, US president George W. Bush’s Administration (2001-2009) set up a detention facility in January 2002, for prisoners charged with terrorism after the US invaded Afghanistan, after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
The US held a total of 780 Muslim men in Guantanamo, 39 of who are still being detained without criminal prosecution or trial. Many were released and at least nine have died at the prison, seven of whom committed suicide.
In addition to emphasising Guantanamo as a torture facility where other human rights violations are committed, the experts said that it is a symbol of the systematic lack of accountability, and impunity granted to those responsible.
“When a State fails to hold accountable those who have authorized and practised torture and other cruel inhumane or degrading treatment it sends a signal of complacency and acquiescence to the world,” the experts said in their statement.
Once again, the experts asked the US to close the prison site, return detainees home or to safe third countries, respecting the principle of non-refoulement, and for reparations to be made to those tortured and arbitrarily detained by its agents.
They also asked for those responsible for acts of torture be held accountable, as required under international human rights law.
They expressed particular concern for the sick and aged prisoners, who have suffered torture during all these years, and they condemned the lack of adequate medical assistance, as well as the lack of torture rehabilitation to habilitate torture victims, which is required under international law.
They also condemned pre-trial hearings held by military commissions to suppress evidence of torture and highlighted the need for transparency and impartiality in these processes.
They highlighted the failures of the United States judicial system to protect human rights and to uphold the Rule of Law, which has given rise to a legal limbo of those jailed in Guantánamo .
Finishing off, the experts praised lawyers for their brave and tireless work defending the detainees who have battled to protect the rule of law and identified the human rights violations by military commissions.
Recently, Ned Price, spokesperson at the US Department of State in Washington, said that the US still plans on closing down this detention facility.
“We remain resolute in deliberating and are committed to an exhaustive process focused on reducing the prisoner population responsibly at Guantanamo Bay and, ultimately, to close down this facility,” Price said.