Washington, DC, October 28, 2013- The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) appeared in a hearing convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission) to demand that the United States immediately close the detention center at the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The IACHR, a principle human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS), convened this, the second hearing on Guantanamo in six months, in recognition of the urgent and ongoing human rights abuses there.
In their presentation, CEJIL and CCR provided key updates and analysis of the massive hunger strike that grew massively since our previous hearing in March, the State practice of force-feeding, invasive “genital searches” interfering with the right to counsel, and other conditions of detention violating the detainees’ human rights.
The United States delegation did not present any substantial information arguing that due to the government shut down they did not have the capacity to prepare for this hearing. CCR and CEJIL regretted the position of the United Stated government particularly because these are issues that have been going on for several years and the state department officials responsible for the closure of Guantanamo Bay were not subject to the furlough and were well aware of this hearing.
“Despite President Obama’s announcement in May that he was recommitting himself to closing Guantanamo, including naming new special envoys and lifting his self-imposed ban on transfers to Yemen, only two prisoners have been transferred since Obama’s speech. Eighty-four men who are cleared for release remain, 56 of whom are from Yemen, yet no Yemeni has left the prison since 2010.” said CCR Staff Attorney Omar Farah, who testified today. “This group of men in particular remain imprisoned not because of anything they allegedly did, but because of where they were born. Lifting the Yemen transfer ban has so far been an empty declaration; it has done nothing to end ongoing collective punishment on the basis of national origin. Guantanamo is quickly becoming an internment camp for Yemenis.”
In a Joint Declaration on May 1, 2013, the IACHR, three United Nations special rapporteurs and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted that the restriction on transfers to Yemen violated international law, noting that “the general restriction on transfers imposed since January 2010 on Yemeni nationals, based solely on their nationality … constitutes a clear violation of the principle of non-discrimination.”
“In contravention of repeated orders to close Guantanamo by the Inter-American Commission and the United Nations Human Rights Council mechanisms, 164 men remain arbitrarily and indefinitely detained in Guantanamo today. Today CEJIL and CCR demand that the United States government take immediate, decisive action to close this detention center in compliance with international standards,” said Francisco Quintana, Program Director for the Andean, North America and Caribbean Region, of CEJIL.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez, who presented independent expert testimony at the hearing, joined the Commissioners in insisting that the United States government must allow the IACHR and the UN Human rights council mechanisms and special rapporteurs to conduct on-site visits in the Guantanamo detention center and meet freely and privately with the men detained there. During more than eleven years of operations, the State has never allowed such a visit to Guantanamo, despite the IACHR and the UN treaty bodies and rapporteurs’ repeated requests.