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UN rights experts on torture and counter-terrorism concerned about fate of Guantánamo detainees

GENEVA (21 July 2010) – The UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture, Manfred Nowak, and on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Martin Scheinin, called on the Obama administration to ensure that it does not forcibly transfer anyone to another State where the person could be subject to torture.

“We are extremely worried that the lives of two Algerian detainees could be put in danger without a proper assessment of the risks they could face if returned against their will to their country of origin,” the experts said, drawing attention to two recent decisions by the US Supreme Court, which have paved the way for the transfer of two of the Algerian detainees held in Guantánamo Base, Cuba.

“While we appreciate the efforts of the authorities to close the Guantánamo detention facility, the risk assessment should be a meaningful and fair process, and the courts should be part of it,” the experts said. Both detainees fear that, if returned to Algeria, they could be subject to torture or other forms of ill-treatment by the security services or non-State actors. These two men are part of a group of six Algerian nationals held in Guantánamo, all in a similar situation.

“Diplomatic assurances are unreliable or difficult to monitor and cannot substitute the sending country’s obligation to assess the real risk facing the individual,” the Special Rapporteurs said, recalling reports that the US Government has obtained such assurances from the Algerian authorities. “We have often seen diplomatic assurances used by Governments to circumvent the absolute prohibition of torture as established in article 3 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment*.”

“This could become the first involuntary transfers of Guantánamo detainees of the Obama administration,” the UN Special Rapporteurs said.

(*) Check UN Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm

OHCHR Country Page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Dolores Infante (Tel: +41 22 917 9730 / email: dinfante@ohchr.org).