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UN: Guantanamo a 'Clear Breach of International Law'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said prison should immediately close, detainees' rights must be upheld

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

(Photo: Justin Norman/flickr)The failure of the U.S. to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is a "clear breach of international law," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated Friday, and slammed the "continuing indefinite incarceration" of detainees and the "systemic abuse of individuals’ human rights" there.

“Allegedly, around half of the 166 detainees still being held in detention have been cleared for transfer to either home countries or third countries for resettlement. Yet they remain in detention at Guantánamo Bay," she said.

This represents "the most flagrant breach of individual rights," according to Pillay.

"Others reportedly have been designated for further indefinite detention. Some of them have been festering in this detention center for more than a decade. This raises serious concerns under international law. It severely undermines the United States’ stance that it is an upholder of human rights, and weakens its position when addressing human rights violations elsewhere.”

Lawyers for the detainees have said that over 100 prisoners are staging a hunger strike in protest of their indefinite detention and other rights violations.

Other reports indicate that prison guards are attempting to force them off their hunger strike by denying them water.

Pillay said their hunger strike was an unsurprising act of desperation, saying, "given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantánamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.”

Noting the double standard on human rights violations by the U.S., Pillay said, "We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the US – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.”

In addition to urging the U.S. to close the prison as soon as possible, Pillay said the U.S. should allow UN observers to the facility to allow them to meet privately with detainees, something the U.S. has prevented.

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