October 28, 2013, Washington – 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, 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.
Although the United States has named special envoys for the closure of Guantanamo, as CEJIL and CCR requested during our previous hearing
this past March, only two men have been transferred since that time. Eighty-four of the 164 men still detained in Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer out of the detention center for several years.
In a Joint Declaration
on May 1, 2013, the IACHR, three United Nations special rapporteurs and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the United States to “take concrete, decisive steps toward closing the detention center at the Guantanamo Naval Base once and for all.” The Joint Declaration noted that the restriction on transfers to Yemen violated international law and 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.”
“Despite President Obama’s announcement in May that he was recommitting himself to closing Guantanamo, including 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 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, including 84 men who were cleared for release years ago. 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 U.S. has never allowed such a visit to Guantanamo, despite the IACHR and the UN treaty bodies and rapporteurs’ repeated requests.
The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is an organization for the defense and promotion of human rights in the American continent. The principal objective of CEJL is to assure the full implementation of international human rights standards in the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), through the effective use of the Inter-American Human Rights System and other international protection mechanisms.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last 10 years – representing clients in two Supreme Court cases and organizing and coordinating hundreds of pro bono lawyers across the country to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. Among other Guantánamo cases, the Center represents the families of men who died at Guantánamo, and men who have been released and are seeking justice in international courts. In addition, CCR has been working through diplomatic channels to resettle men who remain at Guantánamo because they cannot return to their country of origin for fear of persecution and torture.