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OSCE/ODIHR Director says ongoing operation of Guantanamo Bay detention facility contravenes international human rights standards, reiterates call for closure


On January 11, on the 16th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), reiterated her Office’s calls for the facility’s prompt closure.

“The ongoing operation of the detention facility raises profound human rights concerns and continues to undermine the effectiveness and credibility of necessary counter-terrorism efforts,” the ODIHR Director said. “Indefinite detention without charge or trial constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment. In addition, continuing impunity for previous abuses, including acts of torture, and a failure to respect fundamental fair trial rights are also contrary to the principles and values that counter-terrorism efforts aim to defend.”

Since the opening of the detention facility in January 2002, a total of 780 detainees have been held there – the vast majority without charge or trial. Currently, 41 detainees continue to be held in Guantanamo, all of whom have been in the facility for more than ten years.

These include five men who have been cleared by all relevant United States national security agencies for release, but for whom there has been no indication of what will happen. The United States authorities are seeking to hold 23 others indefinitely, although they have never been charged or tried. Another ten are currently under prosecution, and the remaining three have been convicted by military commissions, which have been criticized internationally for failing to comply with fundamental fair trial guarantees.

“Terrorism is a crime and, as such, it can only be tackled effectively through a human rights-compliant and rule of law-based criminal justice system,” Gísladóttir said. “Ordinary courts and law enforcement agencies that operate within the strict boundaries of international human rights and rule of law standards are the most effective ways of ensuring justice.”

“The ongoing operation of Guantanamo is costly, not only for the United States but also for the international community, because it casts doubts on the resolve of the United States authorities to comply with its human rights obligations and commitments when countering terrorism or combating the use of torture,” she added. “The damage this does to the international human rights framework is hard to assess. But what is already clear is that it can only play into the hands of those who act against human rights, including terrorists.”

In 2015, ODIHR published a 280-page report on the human rights situation of detainees at Guantanamo. Based on a comprehensive human rights assessment conducted between 2012 and 2015, the report identified a number of serious human rights violations in connection with the operation of the detention facility and the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Programme. Since the publication of the report, ODIHR has consistently called for the closure of Guantanamo, for full investigations into all alleged human rights violations committed at the facility and in the context of the renditions programme, and for those responsible for the violations to be brought to justice.

Source: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe