The last 30 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, including the men accused of planning the 9/11 attacks, are being held by the United States in circumstances that constitute “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law,” an investigator said. United Nations Human Rights. on Monday.
Fionnuala Ni Aolaina law professor in Minnesota who serves as special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, included the finding in a report extracted from a four day visit to prison in February, which included meetings with an undisclosed number of detainees and interviews with lawyers and former prisoners. She issued the report a month before she ends her term as rapporteur.
He specifically cited the cumulative effects of inadequate medical care, solitary confinement, restraints, and the use of force to remove prisoners from their cells as contributing to his conclusions. She said that conditions in the prison “can also reach the legal threshold for torture.”
Ms. Ni Aolain was the first United Nations investigator granted access to the detention center in its two-decade history. She said in an interview that she met with a cross-section of the 34 prisoners who were there in February, including former CIA detainees facing criminal charges and others who have been approved for transfer to other nations. Today there are 30.
As part of her tenure, Ms. Ni Aolain also met with the families of the victims of terrorism.
The report called the attacks of September 11, 2001 “a crime against humanity.” But Ms Ni Aolain pointedly called the United States and its use of torture against the men now facing criminal charges at Guantanamo Bay “the most significant barrier to fulfilling victims’ rights to justice and surrender.” of counts”.
The torture, he said, “was a betrayal of the rights of the victims” of the 9/11 attacks.
In response, the Biden administration published a one-page defense of the detention operation, saying that current detainees at the Pentagon prison “live communally and prepare meals together; receive specialized medical and psychiatric care; they are given full access to legal advice; and communicate regularly with family members.”
The report highlighted the case of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a former aide to Osama bin Laden who is serving a life sentence “in solitary confinement, raising serious concerns of solitary confinement in contravention of international law.” The prison intends to put him near other detainees for four hours a day, according to the report, but he may not stick to that plan.
Ms Ni Aolain offered the latest in growing international criticism of the medical care provided to detainees, particularly the inadequacy of facilities on base to treat “an aging and vulnerable population” and the absence of “holistic rehabilitation of torture”.
He urged the United States to establish an independent civilian health care program for prisoners who have been tortured by the United States.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other inmates accused of planning the 9/11 attacks are making a similar demand in negotiations launched more than a year ago by prosecutors, who have proposed that the men plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, rather than face a death penalty trial.
Ms. Ni Aolain said the detainees have permanent disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic pain, including joint, gastrointestinal, and urinary problems, as well as untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. She blamed torture and rendition programs for some of the medical problems. She attributed some of them to prolonged detention, hunger strikes and force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay.
Ms. Ni Aolain’s visit was the first known visit to the prison infrastructure by an independent observer since detention center staff dismantled relations with the media in April 2019.
Until this year, successive US administrations had given access to the facilities and to speak with prisoners only to the Red Cross and defense attorneys. The Biden administration offered the rapporteur a visit as part of an initiative to engage more actively with UN human rights investigative bodies.
The report criticized the United States for failing to provide trauma treatment or guarantee the rights of the more than 700 former prisoners at Guantanamo. Most have been repatriated, although some, mostly Yemenis, have been sent to other countries for resettlement.
He described the released prisoners as stigmatized by their detention, in some cases deprived of basic human rights and in need of redress. He also called for reparations for current detainees and victims of terrorism, particularly the children of 9/11 victims, and said they should be allowed to seek financial, educational, and trauma support as remedies a surviving parent may have. resigned.
The White House did not issue a response to Ms. Ni Aolain’s comments on Monday. But President Biden issued a statement noting that it was the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and declaring the “United States’ opposition to all forms of inhumane treatment and our commitment to eliminate torture and to assist torture survivors as they heal and in their search for justice”.
Mr. Biden criticized torture in Russia, Syria and North Korea, adding: “I call on all nations of the world to join me in supporting rehabilitation and justice for torture survivors and take action.” to end torture and inhumane treatment forever.”
Ms. Ni Aolain, however, pointedly argued that the United States had an obligation to address her legacy of torture. “There is no statute that limits torture,” she said. “Those who perpetrated it, participated in it, covered it up…remain responsible for the entirety of their lives.”