GENEVA (28 February 2018) – The US detention of a Pakistani man, Ammar al Baluchi, at Guantanamo Bay is arbitrary and breaches international human rights law, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded.
The group of human rights experts urged the US Government to allow them to visit the centre, saying its continued operation was a source of deep concern and its closure must remain a priority.
In its written opinion, the group stated that Mr. al Baluchi was being kept in US detention with no legal basis, and had been denied his rights to be brought promptly before a judge and to challenge the lawfulness of his detention before a court.
“Mr. al Baluchi has been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and has not been afforded equality of arms in terms of having adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence under the same conditions as the prosecution,” the Working Group said in the findings.
The experts said Mr. al Baluchi, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006, was suffering a serious and ongoing violation of his right to be presumed innocent. This fact, alongside psychological and physical trauma resulting from torture he had suffered prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay, made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial, they added.
“Mr. al Baluchi has been deprived of due process and the fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States,” the group said. “This act of discrimination on the basis of his status as a foreign national and his religion has denied Mr. al Baluchi equality before the law.”
The experts say Mr. al Baluchi’s detention contravenes no fewer than 13 separate articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Working Group said Mr. al Baluchi should be released immediately and given an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, such as appropriate physical and psychological rehabilitation for the torture he had previously suffered.
The experts also noted: “Widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”
Mr. al Baluchi’s case was considered by the Working Group when it met in Geneva from 20-24 November 2017. The group has previously expressed its concerns about the detention centre’s existence to the US Government.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is comprised of five independent expert members from five regions of the world: Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (México), current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Elina Steinerte (Latvia), Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia), Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea), and Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin).
The 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.
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