On the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at Guantánamo prison in Cuba, United Nations legal experts denounced the detention as an “unparalleled” site and called on the Government of the United States to close it down and return the detainees to their homes or to third countries deemed safe for them.
In 2003, the prison had 700 prisoners. After 20 years, 39 persons are still in custody, but only nine have been charged with or convicted of crimes and 13 have been allowed to be transferred.
Between 2002 and 2012, nine detainees died in custody: Two for natural causes, seven reportedly committed suicides. None of them have been charged or convicted of any crime.
The Guantánamo prison, established 20 years ago by the United States, continues to experience human rights violations despite United Nations experts’ calls to close it down.
Violation of laws and torture
In an Amnesty International report on the situation in Guantánamo, lawyers and human rights defenders denounced massive human rights violations, including the indefinite detention without charge, as well as the torture of inmates. No public information is shared, however various investigations can be relied upon, including an investigation by the United States Senate Intelligence Committee after dozens of Guantánamo detainees were brutally tortured.
The UN experts issued a joint statement stressing that “20 years of arbitrary arrests without trial, accompanied by torture or ill-treatment, are simply unacceptable to any government, particularly one claiming to protect human rights.”
According to the British Guardian, Lithuania paid 1000€, to Abu Zubaydah, who is detained in Guantánamo, “known as the Eternal Prisoner,” in compensation for allowing the US intelligence agency to detain him in a secret location outside Vilnius, where he was subjected to torture.
USA is called to respect human rights law and stop the ongoing human rights violations
Independent experts described the detention as a “legal black hole,” on the United States commitment to rule of law. They called on the United States, a new member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to “close this abhorrent chapter of ongoing human rights violations.” They also called for the repatriation or dispatch of detainees still in Guantánamo to any country that is safe for them.
“The continued injustice and the lack of transparency is a stain on the United States’ commitment to the rule of law and constitutional protections. The experts highlighted, in particular, the failures of the US judicial system “to play a meaningful role in protecting humankind, upholding the rule of law and enabling the legal black hole to flourish in Guantanamo with their clear consent and support.” In their statement, the experts confirmed that since 2002, nine detainees had died in Guantánamo, including seven who the United States authorities said had committed suicide, without any judicial follow-up. They also called for the prosecution of those responsible for acts of torture against detainees.
Isn’t it time to close the torture prison yet?
In the past 20 years, a total of 780 persons have been detained in Guantánamo. The majority were released after being arrested for more than 10 years without any judicial charge. At present, only 39 detainees remain in Guantánamo, of whom 13 have been released, but their deportation awaits the agreement of their countries of origin or a third country to host them, and 14 others are awaiting similar release decisions.
In August 2021, Democratic deputies in the United States Congress called on President Joe Biden to close the Guantanamo detention facility and close the files of the 39 detainees detained there, either by releasing them or by bringing them to trial before the federal courts.
With Biden in office, 40 men were still in detention, before one of them was released and deported to Morocco last July. Another 10 have also been approved for release, repatriation, or transfer to a third country. But 12 of them are under slow military trial. Two convictions took place over two decades. The other 19 were neither charged nor released.
Guantánamo has become a game of politics by the USA
11 January marks the opening of Guantanamo Bay, raising the question of why this camp continues to exist today, despite clear violations of human rights and the rule of law, especially after the end of the war on terror since the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The question about Guantánamo’s future can no longer be answered with rational arguments. Like many other things in the United States, it has become a game of politics, casting a shadow over “eternal prisoners” who have been awaiting trial for 20 years.