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Guantánamo Bay, 14 years on – Rights experts urge the US to end impunity and close the detention facility

GENEVA / VIENNA (11 January 2016) – A group of human rights experts from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have urged the United States Government to put an end to impunity for the human rights and humanitarian law violations committed in the so-called ‘global war on terror’, and to promptly close down the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

“The United States must clean up its own house - impunity only generates more abuses as States do not feel compelled to stop engaging in illegal practices,” the experts said in an Open Letter* published today, 14 years after the detention center became operational.

“Long term security can be regained if a page is turned on this dark chapter of post-9/11 practices in response to terrorism,” noted the UN Special Rapporteurs on torture, Juan E. Méndez; on human rights and counterterrorism, Ben Emmerson; on independence of the judiciary, Mónica Pinto; the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong; and the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Michael Georg Link.

“Everyone implicated, including at the highest level of authority, must be held accountable for ordering or executing extraordinary renditions, secret detention, arbitrary arrest of civilians and so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in the name of combatting terrorism,” they said.

The experts recalled that close to a hundred detainees still languish in Guantánamo after years of arbitrary detention without trial, outside of the rule of law and the reach of the US regular courts, despite an executive order issued by President Barak Obama in January 2009 to release or transfer them and close down the facility within one year.

“They are the forgotten ones as the United States moves from a ‘war on terror’ to a ‘war on extremism’, without having acknowledged, reflected and made amends for past violations of fundamental human rights,” they stressed.

In their Open Letter, the experts called for an immediate end to the prolonged arbitrary detention of all Guantánamo Bay detainees by releasing them to their home country or to a third country should they be at risk of persecution, or transferring them to regular detention centers in the US mainland so they can be prosecuted before ordinary courts.

“The US Government must also ensure that current and former Guantánamo detainees as well as individuals who have been secretly detained have access to full redress for violations of their freedom from arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment,” the UN and OSCE human rights experts stressed.

(*) Read the experts’ Open Letter: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/SRTorture/OpenLetterGTMOJan11_2016.docx

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

ODIHR is tasked with assisting the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) participating States to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; to abide by the rule of law; to promote principles of democracy; to build, strengthen and protect democratic institutions; and to promote tolerance throughout their societies. The Office also plays an important role in enhancing dialogue among States, governments and civil society. For more information, visit: http://www.osce.org/node/120670

For more information and media requests please contact Petrine Leweson (+41 22 917 9114 / pleweson@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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