Press Release

10 Years After Detentions in Guantanamo Began, the IACHR Repeats its Call to Close the Detention Center

January 11, 2012

Washington, D.C. - Ten years after the first detainee was transferred by the United States Government to the Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urges the U.S. Government to close the detention facility without delay.

The IACHR reiterates that the Government of the United States of America must close down the detention center at the Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba, without further delay. Moreover, the IACHR reiterates that the United States must determine the legality of the deprivation of liberty of the persons detained in Guantanamo, observe the principle of non-refoulement in the cases where it is appropriate to transfer detainees to other countries, investigate all instances of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment that may have occurred, prosecuting and punishing all those responsible, and allow the Inter-American Commission and the international protection bodies to conduct monitoring visits to the detention facilities.

The IACHR granted precautionary measures on March 12, 2002 (PM 259/02) through which it requested that the Government take the urgent measures necessary to have the legal status of the Guantánamo Bay detainees determined by a competent tribunal. In 2005, the Inter-American Commission expanded the precautionary measures and requested that the United States thoroughly and impartially investigate all instances of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and that it prosecute and punish all those responsible. The IACHR also requested that the United States respect the principle of non-refoulement enshrined in the United Nations Convention against Torture. In addition, through the adoption of Resolutions 2/06 and 02/11, the IACHR established that the failure of the United States to comply with the precautionary measures has resulted in irreparable harm to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The IACHR also granted precautionary measures in favor of two persons detained in Guantanamo: Omar Khadr in 2006 (PM 8/06) and Djamel Ameziane in 2008 (PM 211/08), through which it requested that the State adopted the necessary measures to protect them against alleged acts of torture, among other issues.

The IACHR has held eight hearings related to the situation of the detainees at the Naval Base in Guantanamo, in the years 2002, 2003, 2005 (two), 2007, 2008 and 2010. Additionally, in 2007 and 2011 the IACHR requested authorization to carry out a visit to the Guantanamo detention center. In both instances, the Government replied that the only institution with the competence to be allowed access to the detainees was the International Red Cross, and that a visit by the IACHR would therefore have to be limited to a guided visit of the installations, without access to detainees. The IACHR expressed to the United States Government that these conditions were not acceptable and declined to conduct the visit under such circumstances. Doing so would have limited the functions of the Commission and implied a lack of recognition for its mandate as a principal organ of the Organization of American States charged with the observation and defense of human rights in the hemisphere.

The Inter-American Commission reiterates that it considers essential that the United States allow it to conduct an observation visit with unrestricted access to the installations, in which uninhibited, private interviews with the detainees are permitted.

In addition, the IACHR reiterates that the three precautionary measures granted in relation to the Guantanamo detention center remain in force, and exhorts the United States to comply with them without delay.

The IACHR reiterates its Resolution 02/11, which states that in situations of armed conflict, both international human rights law and international humanitarian law apply; that the relevant provisions of international human rights law were established with the objective, inter alia, of granting protection to individuals who are deprived of their liberty; and that notwithstanding the duty of States to protect the security of their citizens, extraordinary circumstances cannot serve as a pretext for the indefinite detention of individuals without any charge whatsoever.

Finally, the IACHR expresses its concern over new legislation in the United States that authorizes the indefinite detention of persons without trial. The provision is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, approved by Congress and signed by the President on December 31, 2011. In this regard, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man establishes that, “Every individual who has been deprived of his liberty has the right to have the legality of his detention ascertained without delay by a court, and the right to be tried without undue delay or, otherwise, to be released […].” (Art. XXV). It further establishes that, “Every accused person is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty […].” (Art. XXVI). Thus, under all circumstances, a judge must periodically review whether the personal circumstances of the detainee and the facts of the case still meet the conditions established by law to keep the person in custody. If these conditions no longer exist, the detainee must be released. Any deprivation of liberty must be strictly in accordance with the law on which it is based, with international human rights law and, when applicable, with international humanitarian law. Therefore, the IACHR reiterates that when the detention of persons without charge, even in extraordinary situations, extends beyond a reasonable time, it represents a serious violation of the right to personal liberty.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

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