WASHINGTON - February 16 - Today’s report from the United Nations condemning the conditions and treatment of detainees at the U.S. military detention center in Guantánamo Bay echoes Amnesty International’s ongoing concerns. As Amnesty International has, the U.N. report calls for the closure of the camp and urges government and human rights defenders around the world to send a clear message to the U.S. government that it is time for Guantánamo to go.
The U.N. experts, like Amnesty International, also concluded that interrogation techniques authorized for use at the facility violate the Convention against Torture; that international human rights law is applicable to the facility and that the U.S. government must bring the detainees to trial under U.S. law or release them.
“This report builds on everything that Amnesty International has repeatedly raised with the U.S. government,” said Dr. William F. Schulz, Amnesty International USA Executive Director. “We have consistently called for the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay to be closed.”
But Guantánamo Bay is just the tip of the iceberg. The United States also operates detention facilities at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and has been implicated in the use of secret detention facilities in other countries, also known as 'black sites.’
All of these facilities, including Guantánamo Bay, must be opened to independent scrutiny. All detainees must have access to the courts and should be treated humanely. These are basic principles that cannot be overridden even in time of war or national emergency.
In a report released last week, Amnesty International exposed the impact of detention in the Guantánamo Bay facility on detainees and their families; thousands are being condemned to a life of emotional and physical suffering and torment, the report found.
Amnesty International repeats its call for Congress to establish a fully independent and impartial commission to conduct public investigations into the reports of abuse in U.S.-controlled detention centers, including secret ones, around the world and to offer preventive measures to stop torture and inhuman treatment.
The United States government’s disregard for international law in the context of the 'war on terror' has enormous influence over the rest of the world. When the U.S. commits serious human rights violations it sends a signal to abusive governments that these practices are permissible. This is why Guantánamo Bay is so important: it tells other governments that they can commit human rights violations in the name of counter-terrorism too.
“The United States can no longer make the case, morally or legally, for keeping it open. Everyday that the U.S. government continues to detain without charge or trial the hundreds of individuals at Guantanamo, we weaken our moral voice on human rights,” said Schulz.