by John Glaser
A press release from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday urged all branches of the United States Government to work together to close the Guantanamo detention centre, saying “the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention and is in clear breach of international law.”
“I am deeply disappointed that the US Government has not been able to close Guantanamo Bay, despite repeatedly committing itself to do so,” Pillay said. “Allegedly, around half of the 166 detainees still being held in detention have been cleared for transfer to either home countries or third countries for resettlement. Yet they remain in detention at Guantanamo Bay. Others reportedly have been designated for further indefinite detention. Some of them have been festering in this detention centre for more than a decade. This raises serious concerns under international law. It severely undermines the United States’ stance that it is an upholder of human rights, and weakens its position when addressing human rights violations elsewhere.”
Commenting on the current hunger strike by Guantanamo detainees, Pillay said that “a hunger strike is a desperate act, and one which brings a clear risk of people doing serious lasting harm to themselves. I always urge people to think of alternative, less dangerous, ways to protest about their situation. But given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantanamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.”
Pillay noted that four years ago she warmly welcomed President Obama’s announcement immediately after his inauguration that he was placing a high priority on closing Guantanamo and setting in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees. She welcomed a White House spokesman’s reiteration of this commitment last week (27 March), citing Congressional legislation as the prime obstacle.
“Nevertheless, this systemic abuse of individuals’ human rights continues year after year,” she said. “We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the US – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.”
The Obama administration’s response to such sweeping criticisms of their indefinite detention policies has largely been to ignore them. ‘What? We’re criminals? Oh, hush up.’