14 June 2006
“The simultaneous suicide of three detainees in the Guantánamo military base on 10 June 2006 was to a certain extent foreseeable in light of the harsh and prolonged conditions of their detention and reinforces the need for the urgent closure of the detention center”, the five human rights experts of the United Nations in charge of following the situation of Guantánamo detainees said today.
The experts -- the Chairman Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Leila Zerrougui; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt -- have repeatedly requested, without success, that the Government of the United States allow them to interview Guantánamo detainees in private, according to the terms of reference applicable to all special procedures for their country visits.
As they were not allowed to carry out such a visit, the five experts produced a report on 27 February 2006 (E/CN.4/2006/120) in which they pointed out the arbitrary nature of the detentions; the violation of judicial guarantees and other elements of the right to a fair trial; the lack of access to competent and independent tribunals established by law; the inhuman and degrading nature of the conditions of detention, in various cases amounting to torture; the harmful impact of those conditions on the health and life of those persons; and the attacks against the religious beliefs and dignity of the detainees. They urged that ill-treatment ceases and that detainees be brought before and tried by ordinary tribunals. They also insisted upon the importance of allowing the experts unfettered access to the detention facilities as well as interviews with detainees in private. Since the issuance of the report and pursuant to its main recommendation, the experts have repeatedly asked for the immediate closure of the Guantánamo detention facility.
Given the three suicides on 10 June, the experts wish to draw particular attention to the report's findings concerning the mental health of detainees. The report warned that "the treatment of detainees since their arrests, and the conditions of their confinement, have had profound effects on the mental health of many of them" (paragraph 71). The report also concluded: "The totality of the conditions of their confinement at Guantanamo Bay constitute a right to health violation because they derive from a breach of duty and have resulted in profound deterioration of the mental health of many detainees" (paragraph 92).
The suicides of 10 June confirm the relevance of the report’s recommendations and the urgency for their implementation. Many of the detainees continue to carry out a prolonged hunger strike to protest against their conditions of detention, while others have attempted to commit suicide.
The experts await the judgment of the United States Supreme Court in the Hamdan case. A ruling on this matter could have far reaching consequences for the protection of human rights in times of emergencies, conflicts and global tension. At the same time the experts recall the need for norms of fair trial and access to detainees to be ensured in counter-terrorism measures in all instances.
In this context, the experts reiterate their request for the immediate closure of the Guantánamo detention facility.