First UN investigator at US Guantanamo detention facility says detainees are being treated cruelly

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The first independent UN investigator to visit the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay said on Monday that the 30 men held there are being subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law.” international”.

The investigator, Irish law professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, told a press conference launching her 23-page report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the 2001 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people were “crimes against humanity”. But she said the United States’ use of torture and rendition against the alleged perpetrators and their associates in the years after the attacks violated international human rights law.

Ní Aoláin said his visit marked the first time a U.S. administration allowed a UN investigator to visit the facility, which opened in 2002.

She praised the Biden administration for leading by example in opening up Guantanamo and “being ready to tackle the toughest human rights issues,” and urged other countries that have banned the access to detention centers to follow suit. And she said she had access to everything she asked for, including holding meetings at the facility in Cuba with “high-value” and “low-value” detainees.

The United States said in a submission to the Human Rights Council on the report’s findings that the special investigator’s findings “are theirs alone” and that “the United States disagrees on many important points with many factual and legal assertions” in his report.

Ní Aoláin said “significant improvements” had been made to the confinement of detainees, but expressed “serious concerns about the continued detention of 30 men, who she said face severe insecurity, suffering and She cited examples including near-constant surveillance, forced expulsion from their cells, and unfair use of restraints.

“I have observed that after two decades of detention, the suffering of those detained is deep and continuous,” said the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the world. fight against terrorism. “Every detainee I have met lives with the relentless harm that stems from systematic practices of rendition, torture and arbitrary detention. ”

Ní Aoláin, simultaneously a professor at the University of Minnesota and Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, said that for many inmates the line between past and present “is exceptionally thin” and for some ” it is simply non-existent” because “their past experiences of torture live with them in the present with no obvious end in sight, not least because they have received no adequate rehabilitation for torture to date.

She made a long series of recommendations and said the Guantanamo Bay prison should be closed.

The U.S. response, submitted by U.S. Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Michele Taylor, said Ní Aoláin was the first UN special rapporteur to visit Guantanamo and was granted “access unprecedented” with “confidence that the conditions of confinement at Guantanamo Bay are humane and reflect the respect and protection of human rights by the United States for all those in our custody.

“Detainees live in community and prepare meals together; receive specialized medical and psychiatric care; have full access to a lawyer; and communicate regularly with family members,” the US statement read.

“We are nevertheless carefully considering the recommendations (of the special rapporteur) and will take all appropriate measures, if necessary,” he said.

The United States said the Biden administration had made “meaningful progress” toward closing Guantanamo, transferring 10 detainees from the facility, it said, adding it was looking to find suitable locations for them. remaining detainees eligible for transfer.

“For the few people who are not yet eligible for transfer, we are conducting periodic reviews to determine whether continued detention under the laws of war is warranted,” he said, while procedures for detainees subject to criminal proceedings are prosecuted in military commissions.

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