UN Human Rights Chief Slams US Over Gitmo, 'War on Terror'

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Common Dreams

UN Human Rights Chief Slams US Over Gitmo, 'War on Terror'

'Time and again' U.S. commits 'profoundly disturbing' rights violations

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (Reuters/Susana Vera)

Anti-terror policies implemented by the U.S. and governments around the world have grossly violated human rights, warned United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay on Monday, warning that the U.S. government's Guantanamo Bay detention center and international rendition and drone programs have done far more harm than good.

"Time and again, my Office has received allegations of very grave violations of human rights that have taken place in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations," Pillay warned.

"Such practices are self-defeating. Measures that violate human rights do not uproot terrorism: they nurture it."

In the speech, given at the opening of the spring session of the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, Pillay most explicitly slammed the U.S. for Guantanamo, in which 166 prisoners remain in indefinite detention without charge or trial.

"The United States’ failure to shut down the Guantanamo detention center has been an example of the struggle against terrorism failing to uphold human rights, among them the right to a fair trial," Pillay stated.

166 detainees in Guantanamo continue to be held without charge or trial, while half have been cleared for transfer. Over 100 remain on a hunger strike that began over four months ago, garnering international attention for the prisoners' plight.

Pillay continues:

The continuing indefinite detention of many of these individuals amounts to arbitrary detention, in breach of international law, and the injustice embodied in this detention center has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists. [...]

I have repeatedly urged the Government of the United States of America to close Guantanamo Bay in compliance with its obligations under international human rights law.

Pillay did not stop there, however.

Many European states are complicit in the U.S.'s human rights abuses committed in name of the "war on terror," Pillay warned—namely through the global kidnapping and rendition program spearheaded by the U.S.

Pillay pressed for a thorough investigation into all countries involved:

I am dismayed by the continuing failure of many European States to undertake public and independent investigations of past involvement in the U.S. renditions program, under which terrorist suspects were captured and delivered to interrogation centers without regard for due process. Some of them still languish in Guantanamo.

Pillay went on to condemn the use of armed drones for counter-terrorism purposes, calling drone strikes "profoundly disturbing" on the basis of human rights.

"The worrying lack of transparency regarding the use of drones has also contributed to a lack of clarity on the legal bases for drone strikes, as well as on safeguards to ensure compliance with the applicable international law," Pillay said.

Pillay's statements follow President Obama's speech last week at the National Defense University in Washington, in which he promised to modify the U.S. drone program and take measures to close Guantanamo Bay.

The speech, however, was criticized as both "long overdue" and "not good enough" by rights groups.

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