UN publishes scathing report on more than 21 years of abuse of 780 Muslim men and boys at Guantanamo Bay
Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the Irish born, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota and the United Nations ‘Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism’, became the first United Nations Special Rapporteur to be granted access to the much-criticised detention facility at Guantanamo, which took place at the beginning of February 2023.
UN Rapporteur demands apology from US President Biden for Guantanamo detainees
On Monday 26th June 2023, she published a shocking report following her recent technical visit to the United States detention facility at the US Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in which she called on the US President and the government to apologise for the torture of Guantanamo Bay detainees, to urgently introduce accountability in respect of a long list of abuses and critically demanding that the facility to be permanently closed.
Controversially, she made the point that the continued use of torture at so called ‘Black sites’ as well as at Guantanamo Bay, was completely at odds with the mission to ensure justice for victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The report listed a wide range of abuses that she said were still practised at the facility, in particular the arbitrary refusal to provide detainees with fundamental rights including access to health care, family access and judicial representation.
She underlined the point that the nature of the regime at the facility severely impacted on each of the detainee’s sense of self worth and dignity, forged she said by a structure in which they were constantly deprived of any form of communication with the outside world, their lack of liberty and the constant levels of surveillance, undue restraining mechanisms and ‘forced cell extractions’.
Professor Ni Aolain used the term ‘unrelenting harms’ to describe the conditions in which she defined the state which every Guantanamo inmate lives and is permanently subjected to as a consequence of the systematic nature of their rendition, torture and arbitrary detention.
Amnesty International's Secretary General, Agnès Callamard, responded to the report by urging President Biden to close the facility and to end what she described as ‘the unlawful practice of indefinite detention without charge of trial’. She added:
‘The scathing report reviews more than 21 years of indefinite detention for 780 Muslim men and boys, and the myriad human rights violations against them…It is well past time to demand the closure of the prison, accountability from US officials, and reparations for the torture and other ill-treatment that the detainees have suffered at the hands of the US government’
British intelligence accused of complicity in torture
Just last month at the end of May 2023, lawyers for Abd al-Rahim, an Egyptian national who was detained from 2002 in a series of ‘Black site’ prisons, before eventually being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 (where he remains to this day), have presented arguments to a secret court in Britain, in which they allege that UK intelligence operatives were involved in al-Nashiri’s mistreatment. They additionally allege that Luton airport was used to refuel a private jet used in his rendition from Thailand to Poland in December 2002. This case in the British courts has the potential to once again raise the issue of Britain’s illegal complicity in the CIA’s detention programme. A pledge made by UK government ministers in 2019, to open an independent inquiry into UK’s complicity in rendition has been discreetly swept under the carpet.