Sunday, December 3, 2023

UN expert urges US to apologise for Guantanamo abuses

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A United Nations expert has called on the United States to apologise for the torture of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, to ensure accountability for brutal human rights abuses, and to close down the US-run detention facility in Cuba.

In a report released on Monday, UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ni Aolain said the torture of detainees at secret locations known as black sites and subsequently at Guantanamo is the “single most significant barrier” to ensuring justice for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

“The importance of apology and guarantees of non-repetition to both the victims of terrorism and the victims of torture betrayed by these practices will be no less pressing in the years ahead,” the report read.

The Guantanamo detention facility opened in 2002 under US President George W Bush to house detainees captured during the so-called “war on terror” after 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001.

The jail once housed nearly 800 detainees. Its inmate population is now down to 30, more than half of whom – 16 detainees – have been declared eligible for release by US authorities. Located at a US military base in Cuba, the prison operates under a system of military commissions that does not guarantee the same rights as traditional US courts.

Rights groups have long demanded its closure, denouncing rights violations at Guantanamo – including forced feedings and beatings of detainees, and a lack of due process.

The abuses are ongoing at the prison facility, the new report said.

For example, inmates are called by a serial number, not their names – a policy that Ni Aolain said “undermines each detainee’s self-worth and dignity, particularly in the lived context of profound deprivation of liberty, communication, and relationship with the outside world”.

Ni Aolain further underscored the “near-constant surveillance, forced cell extractions, undue use of restraints” and solitary confinement that she said continue to be used at Guantanamo.

Ni Aolain said every inmate she met lives with the “unrelenting harms” caused by their systematic “rendition, torture and arbitrary detention”.

“I observed that after two decades of custody, the suffering of those detained is profound, and it’s ongoing,” she said.

Amnesty International said the “scathing” report highlights the need to shut down the detention facility.

“It is well past time to demand the closure of the prison, accountability from US officials, and reparations for the torture and other ill-treatment that the detainees have suffered at the hands of the US government,” the rights group’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, said in a statement.

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