The detention center at Guantanamo Bay remains a blight on the human rights record of the United States, according to Irish law professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the first independent investigator allowed inside by a U.S. administration. In her 23-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Ní Aoláin condemned the continued “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under international law” of the 30 men incarcerated there.
While acknowledging that the September 11 attacks constituted “crimes against humanity,” Ní Aoláin also criticized the U.S. use of torture and rendition in response as a violation of human rights law, and one which frequently led to fabricated or unreliable evidence being used against detainees in trials.
However, in comments that suggest some hope for change, Ní Aoláin praised the Biden administration’s willingness to finally allow U.N. access and to engage with these difficult issues, which had been ignored or actively blocked by previous U.S. governments. She urged other countries to follow this example and allow greater transparency and accountability in their own detention systems. Ní Aoláin emphasized that during her visit, she was given full access to all aspects of the facility and permitted to hold discussions with both “high value” and “non-high value” detainees.
Guantanamo Bay is a stain on human rights that cannot easily be erased, but this report represents a step towards greater awareness and scrutiny of America’s actions in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and ultimately greater accountability for those who have been held in indefinite detention and subjected to inhumane treatment.
United States Disagrees with Human Rights Report on Guantanamo Bay
The Human Rights Council has recently received a report from the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. In response to her findings, The United States has stated that they disagree with many factual and legal assertions in the report, maintaining that the findings are solely those of the rapporteur.
Ní Aoláin observed that although “significant improvements” have been made to the confinement of detainees, she remains very concerned about the continued detention of 30 men who face severe insecurity, suffering, and anxiety. She cited several examples of unjust treatment, such as near constant surveillance, forced removal from cells, and misuse of restraints.
After two decades of detainment, Ní Aoláin has seen firsthand the profound suffering of those incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay and their ongoing struggle to overcome systematic practices of rendition, torture, and arbitrary detention. During her visit, she observed every aspect of Guantanamo and noted a “heartfelt response” from many detainees who saw someone not associated with the detention center for the first time in two decades.
Ní Aoláin further revealed that many detainees suffer deep psychological harm and distress, exhibiting feelings of anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, stress, depression, and dependency. The situation is a dire one and requires immediate attention and intervention.
Concerns Over Torture Rehabilitation Programs for Guantanamo Detainees
The failure of the U.S. government to provide adequate torture rehabilitation programs to Guantanamo detainees has raised grave concern from Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism. The specialist care and facilities at Guantanamo, she noted, are not equipped to deal with the complex mental and physical health issues of detainees, including permanent disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain, gastrointestinal and urinary issues.
The UN rapporteur also identified fundamental fair trial and due process deficiencies in the military commission system and expressed concerns about the extent of secrecy in all judicial and administrative proceedings. She concluded that the United States has failed to promote fair trial guarantees for Guantanamo detainees who continue to live in a detention environment without trial or charge for upwards of 21 years. Moreover, many detainees suffer from the deprivation of support from their families and community, hunger striking, self-harm, suicidal ideation (ideas), and accelerated aging.
UN expert demands immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay prison
The United States was told on Thursday to end its longstanding detention of terrorist suspects and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay immediately, following a probe by the UN human rights investigator.
In a list of recommendations, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin urged the US government to provide specialized rehabilitation for detainees who have experienced torture and trauma, as well as ensuring that all detainees have access to at least one phone call a month with their family, regardless of whether they are considered “high-value.”
She also called for equal access to legal counsel for all Guantanamo detainees.
While the US has made “significant progress” towards closing the facility by transferring 10 detainees to other countries, it is still looking to find suitable locations for the remaining detainees eligible for transfer.
US response to UN report on Guantanamo prison
The American ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Michele Taylor, responded to Ní Aoláin’s report saying that the conditions of confinement at Guantanamo Bay reflect “the United States’ respect for and protection of human rights.”
In her report, Ní Aoláin had demanded specialized rehabilitation for detainees who had experienced torture and trauma.
Taylor said that all detainees receive full access to legal counsel, live communally and prepare meals together, receive specialized medical care and communicate regularly with family members.
However, she added that the US is “carefully reviewing” Ní Aoláin’s recommendations and will take any appropriate action if warranted.
Protecting the Rights of 9/11 Victims and Guantanamo Detainees
The recent report highlights the importance of protecting the rights of victims of terrorism and detainees released from Guantanamo. It emphasizes the need for justice for all, regardless of their circumstances.
The report calls out the use of torture by the U.S., citing it as a hindrance to justice for the victims of 9/11. Children who had relinquished their rights for compensation should have the chance to claim it along with proper health care.
It further highlights how the 741 men released from Guantanamo were left to fend for themselves, with no identity, education, job training, proper healthcare or social recognition. This overall treatment, along with their sustained human rights violations, poverty, and stigma is a gross violation of their basic human rights.
According to the report, the U.S. is obligated before, during and after the transfer of detainees to provide them with reasonable compensation and rehabilitation. The rapporteur also emphasizes that the U.S. needs to ensure that these men are not abandoned and are given a chance to live productive lives.