Sunday, January 25, 2009

United Nations Backs President Obama

President Obama has some pretty good support in getting Guantanamo closed. Not only does he have 16 former military officers behind him. Here is the statement from Human Rights First and a list of their names. He also has the support of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The statement from them reads as follows:

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has welcomed Thursday's decision by the new United States administration to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, as well as the decision to ban methods of interrogation that contravene international law. Ms. Pillay also called for a review of the United States approach to detaining individuals abroad, in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the practice of ‘rendition,’ in order to ensure conformity with international law.

“I warmly welcome this decision,” Ms. Pillay said on 22 January. “The fact that President Obama has placed such a high priority on closing Guantanamo and set in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees there is extremely encouraging. The United States has in the past been a staunch supporter of international human rights law, and this is one of the reasons that the regime that was established in Guantanamo has been viewed as so damaging.”

“Water-boarding and other forms of interrogation that may amount to torture, detention for prolonged periods without trial or proper judicial review, and what became known as ‘extraordinary rendition’ – these are all aberrations that should never have happened,” Ms. Pillay added.

The High Commissioner also welcomed the fact that President Obama’s Executive Order issued on Thursday sets a framework for regularizing the situation of the remaining detainees in Guantanamo.

“Those suspected of crimes are entitled to an expeditious and fair trial before the regular courts,” Ms. Pillay said. “Those who are considered innocent are entitled to their freedom without delay.”

The High Commissioner also raised the issue of compensation for those judged to be innocent. “It is hard to imagine what a devastating psychological effect their years in Guantanamo will have had on them and their families. For those who were innocent, or arbitrarily detained, there should be adequate recompense for the six or seven years of their lives that have been lost.”

Ms. Pillay called for a thorough investigation into allegations of torture at the Guantanamo centre. “Under international law, there is an absolute prohibition against torture, and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” she said. “There is no let-out clause. There must be accountability for those who have ordered such practices or carried them out, and victims should receive recompense.”

She also raised concerns about detention in locations outside the United States such as Afghanistan and Iraq. “There have been many disturbing questions about the legality of overseas centres such as the Bagram base in Afghanistan,” Ms. Pillay said. “These too need to be resolved quickly and satisfactorily, in order to re-establish full respect for human rights across the board. That said, I would like to salute President Obama for the extremely important step he has taken, and for doing it so swiftly upon taking up office. This is a good day for the rule of law.”

This is just another example of the rightness of his moves this week. The UN of Geneva has also offered their assistance in helping to sort out the prisoners who are in Guantanamo, and stand ready to lend their full support in resolving the legal and practical issues in getting the base closed.

This could go a long way to getting something done in finding places for the prisoners after all the sorting is done. Manfred Nowark, Special Rapporteur of Torture for the UN has spoken out several times against the US and in particular the Bush Administration for the treatment of the prisoners in the past and has applauded Pres. Obama for his actions this week and has vowed to help in any way he can.

There is quite a history between the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and Mr. Nowark and the United States. Since early 2002, a number of special procedures mandate holders have been engaged in a dialogue with the United States Government regarding the situation of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay. In June 2004, several groups within the UN joined together to put pressure on Bush & Co. to allow them to visit with the prisoners and to visit Guantanamo. They were denied.

Accordingly, on 25 June 2004, we sent a letter requesting to visit “those persons arrested, detained or tried on grounds of alleged terrorism or other violations, in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Bay military base and elsewhere”. Subsequent reminders focusing on a visit to Guantanamo Bay were sent on 22 November 2004, 21 April 2005 and 31 May 2005 respectively.

By letters dated 9 November 2004 and 20 May 2005 and in a briefing with the US delegation to the Commission on Human Rights, held on 4 April 2005 in Geneva, the United States of America responded by saying that the request “continued to be the subject of intense review and consideration” and that it “has received serious attention and is being discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. Government”.

Finally, achieving no satisfaction they went public on June 23, 2005. It took until October to get some kind of answer from Bush & Co. However, the UN had the answers they needed. They had already spoken to prisoners who had been released who had been held with no charges ever being filed, people who should never have been picked up in the first place, young men and boys who were snatched off the streets for no reason other than they were in the wrong place.

On 26 and 28 October 2005, we had further meetings in New York City with US officials from the Defense and State Departments. At the second meeting, we were provided with the three letters of invitation and assurances that the US Government will continue its cooperation with the five independent experts involved in the joint study.

Even though they were promised a visit it was not without conditions and was only in certain areas. It was controlled, confined and they were only allowed to speak to the prisoners with the guards standing over them. They had requested to be allowed to speak to them without guards so they might find out what treatment they were receiving.

The experts – the Chairman Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Leila Zerrougui; the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak; the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir; and the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt – have repeatedly requested, without success, that the Government of the United States allow them to interview Guantanamo detainees in private, according to the terms of reference applicable to all special procedures for their country visits.

After the visit to the base by these UN officials there had been an incident, which was released as a suicide. Three of the detainees (as they are called) managed to kill themselves while under guard, with the meager belongings they are given. Makes ones mind wonder. Here is a partial statement they released:

“The simultaneous suicide of three detainees in the Guantanamo military base on 10 June 2006 was to a certain extent foreseeable in light of the harsh and prolonged conditions of their detention, and reinforces the need for the urgent closure of the detention center”,
the five human rights experts of the United Nations in charge of following the situation of Guantánamo detainees said today.

On Countdown the other night, Keith Olbermann wondered in a segment he presented about one of the released detainees if by keeping these people in Guantanamo as Bush & Co. have if they are creating terrorists.

It does make you think. We (the royal we, as a Country) have been snatching some of these people off the streets, off the hillsides, out of their homes or just anywhere they happen to be, with no proof of any crimes or proof of any wrong doing at all in some cases and locking them up for years at a time. There is no trial, no hearing, nothing sometimes except pain, torture, psychological torture if no other by separating them from family, from everything they know and love, and locking them in a small cell open to the weather, allowing them only the bare essentials to live, and expecting them to like it.

All the while we are told, it is a wonderful place. It is clean, they have more than some of them have in their own country. Well, gee, let me put you there then. Take you away from your family, from everything you hold dear, even if it is more than you have, and see if you like it. I have heard this standard line from so many..about how wonderful Guantanamo is, but it is not their home.. what part of that do they not get.


NEWSGUY said...

Some of the people in Gitmo were simply sold to us by warlords who kidnapped them, either because they were enemies or a ready source of cash. Our Guantanamo policy is insane and unfair. And a blot on our national reputation.

Fran said...

Another case of believe what we say, not what you see. Gitmo started as a basic dog cage format cells.
It is harsh, cruel, and because of it's remote location- neither on US soil, or in Iraq, it allows the US military to do whatever they want.
A very dark piece of American history.