The continued operation of the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a prime example of the USA’s double standard on human rights, Amnesty International said today, almost five years after President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the facility.
“On 22 January 2009, ordering the closure of Guantánamo within a year was among President Obama’s first official decisions after he came to office,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Programme.
“Five years later, this promise of change has become a human rights failure that threatens to haunt President Obama’s legacy, just as it has his predecessor’s.”
Twelve years after the first detainees were brought to Guantánamo, strapped down in planes like cargo, more than 150 men are still held there. Most of them are held without charge or trial.
A few Guantánamo detainees face trial under a military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards. Of the almost 800 detainees who have been held there, less than one per cent have been convicted by military commission – and the majority of those were the result of pre-trial plea bargains.
The USA expects other countries to do what it refuses to – accept released detainees who cannot be repatriated. As a result, even those who obtain a judicial ruling against their detention may continue to be held. The transfer to Slovakia last month of three Chinese ethnic Uighur men came more than five years after a US federal judge ruled their detention unlawful.
More than 70 detainees – the majority of them Yemenis – have been “approved for transfer”, but the security situation in their home countries or other issues have been deemed by the administration as reasons to delay their transfer out of Guantánamo.
“Detainees at Guantánamo remain in limbo with their lives on hold for years on end. Many have suffered serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance and torture, but access to remedy has systematically been blocked and accountability minimal”, said Erika Guevara Rosas.
“Every year that the USA has been operating the Guantánamo detention camp, it has continued to proclaim its commitment to international human rights standards. If any other country was responsible for the human rights vacuum of Guantánamo, it would surely draw the USA’s condemnation. It’s long past time for the US authorities to end this double standard.”
Amnesty International calls on the US authorities to ensure independent and impartial investigations into all credible allegations of human rights violations carried out at Guantánamo and against detainees held elsewhere. The findings should be made public, and anyone responsible for crimes under international law brought to justice, regardless of their current or former level of office.
The secrecy regarding human rights violations committed by US military and intelligence officials must come to an end, the organization said.
“Impunity for crimes under international law such as torture and enforced disappearance committed against detainees, including at Guantánamo, is a festering injustice that leaves the USA in serious violation of its international obligations,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.
Amnesty International is calling for all victims of US human rights violations – including current and former Guantánamo detainees – to have genuine access to meaningful remedy.