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“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.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The UN Special Rapporteur on torture has called for the closure of the facility since 2010. The US Government invited the expert to visit the detention centre, but on conditions that could not be accepted. The Special Rapporteur has continued to insist on being invited to visit Guantánamo, under acceptable terms, while it remains operational.

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

Check the Revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners: http://www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/Brochure_on_the_UN_SMRs.pdf

For more information and media requests please contact:
Andrea Furger (+41 22 928 93 98 / afurger@ohchr.org) or write to sr-torture@ohchr.org
Alessandro Marra (+41 22 928 9870 / amarra@ohchr.org) or write to srct@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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