“It’s not just about closing Guantánamo, but also ensuring accountability,” UN rights experts say

GENEVA (26 February 2016) – A group of six United Nations human rights experts* today urged President Barack Obama to ensure proper investigation and full accountability for human rights violations in his plans to close the Guantánamo Bay detention centre.

“It is not just about closing the detention facility and dealing with the current group of detainees,” the UN experts on counterterrorism, torture, independence of the judiciary, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and international equitable order said, while welcoming President Obama’s announcement made earlier this week.  

“It is about closing a chapter in the United States’ history that began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the chapter of the ‘global war on terrorism’, which justified a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations,” they noted.

“In order to turn the page completely, the US authorities must ensure independent and impartial investigations and prosecutions into all credible allegations of violations carried out within this context, such as extraordinary rendition, torture and secret detention,” the group of experts stressed. “And the findings should be made public, and those responsible must be brought to justice.”

The human rights experts expressed the hope that the plans to close the Guantánamo detention facility are implemented without delay so all detainees can be transferred to regular mainland detention facilities.  

“Any detainees must be held under the conditions that respect international standards,” they stated, “including those under international humanitarian law and the ‘Mandela Rules’ – the Revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMRs).”

“In particular, no individual must be held incommunicado, or in prolonged or indefinite solitary confinement. Detainees must be legitimately charged and prosecuted before ordinary courts in line with the norms of international due process and fair trial standards,” they said. “Otherwise, they must be released, including with due regard to the principle of non-refoulement, and, if appropriate, afforded adequate reparation.”

“Above all, the closure of Guantánamo is an absolute necessity and must be a fundamental priority of both the President and Congress,” they concluded.

(*) The experts: Mr. Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on independence of the judiciary; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;  Ms. Houria Es-Slami, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and Mr. Alfred De Zayas, UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.


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