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GUANTÁNAMO/HUMAN RIGHTS: “INDEFINITE DETENTION – WILL IT EVER END?”

1 May 2013

WASHINGTON/GENEVA (1 May 2013) – “The United States must respect and guarantee the life, health and personal integrity of detainees at the Guantánamo Naval Base, particularly in the context of the current hunger strike,” *a group of international experts on human rights, arbitrary detention, torture, counter- terrorism and health said today.

“We have received specific information regarding the severe and prolonged physiological and psychological damage caused by the detainees’ high degree of uncertainty over basic aspects of their lives, such as not knowing whether they will be tried or whether they will be released and when; or whether they will see their family members again,” said the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has been following closely the situation in Guantanamo. 

“At Guantánamo, the indefinite detention of individuals, most of whom have not been charged, goes far beyond a minimally reasonable period of time and causes a state of suffering, stress, fear and anxiety, which in itself constitutes a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” stressed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, drew attention to the fact that the United States Government has admitted that there are at least 86 prisoners who have been cleared for transfer. “In other words,” he noted, “all relevant security-related government agencies or authorities have expressly certified that those detainees do not represent a threat to U.S. security.”

“Of those, 56 are Yemeni nationals who have been denied release based solely on their nationality and on the political situation in Yemen, which constitutes a clear violation of the principle of non-discrimination and renders their detention arbitrary and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law,” explained El Hadji Malick Sow, who currently heads the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

In the context of the ongoing hunger strike, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on health, Anand Grover, stressed that “health care personnel may not apply undue pressure of any sort on individuals who have opted for the extreme recourse of a hunger strike, nor is it acceptable to use threats of forced feeding or other types of physical or psychological coercion against individuals who have voluntarily decided to go on a hunger strike.”   

The experts urged the United States Government to adopt concrete measures to end the indefinite detention of persons; to ensure the detainees are either released or prosecuted in accordance with due process and the principles and standards of international human rights law; to allow for independent monitoring by international human rights bodies; and to close the detention center at the Guantánamo Naval Base.

Over the past decade, there have been numerous requests by these and other experts to access the Guantánamo detention center and to hold private, confidential interviews with detainees - with no success.


(*) Check the expert’s full public statement:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13278&LangID=E

The experts: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; El Hadji Malick Sow, Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; and Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

For more information log on to:
Arbitrary Detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Countering Terrorism: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx
Health: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/

UN Human Rights, country page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Stephanie Selg (+1 202 274 4378 / sselg@ohchr.org), Sonia Cronin (+41 22 917 91 60 / scronin@ohchr.org) or María Isabel Rivero, IACHR (+1 202 370 9001 / mrivero@oas.org)

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For use of the information media; not an official record

HR13/100E