USA Must Close Guantánamo and End Human Rights Hypocrisy

Press Release
January 21, 2014

USA Must Close Guantánamo and End Human Rights Hypocrisy

Contact: Gabe Cahn, gabe@westendstrategy.com, desk: 202.776.7700, cell: 202.412.1678

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The continued operation of the U.S. detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a prime example of the USA’s double standard on human rights, Amnesty International said today, five years after President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the facility.

"President Obama put Guantánamo on the back burner and indefinite detention and unfair trials continue 5 years later,” said Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“It’s good that the President recommitted to keeping his promise, but the question is whether it will be too little too late. His legacy is on the line and time is of the essence. Every day that the detention facility remains open, the U.S. government further corrodes the rights to due process and a fair trial."

Twelve years after the first detainees were brought to Guantánamo, strapped down in planes like cargo, more than 150 men are still held there. Most of them are held without charge or trial.

A few Guantánamo detainees face trial under a military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards. Of the almost 800 detainees who have been held there, less than one per cent have been convicted by military commission - and the majority of those were the result of pre-trial plea bargains.

The USA expects other countries to do what it refuses to - accept released detainees who cannot be repatriated. As a result, even those who obtain a judicial ruling against their detention may continue to be held. The transfer to Slovakia last month of three Chinese ethnic Uighur men came more than five years after a U.S. federal judge ruled their detention unlawful.

More than 70 detainees - the majority of them Yemenis - have been “approved for transfer,” but the security situation in their home countries or other issues have been deemed by the administration as reasons to delay their transfer out of Guantánamo.

“Detainees at Guantánamo remain in limbo with their lives on hold for years on end. Many have suffered serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance and torture, but access to remedy has systematically been blocked and accountability minimal,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, director of Amnesty International’s Americas program.

“Every year that the USA has been operating the Guantánamo detention camp, it has continued to proclaim its commitment to international human rights standards. If any other country was responsible for the human rights vacuum of Guantánamo, it would surely draw the USA’s condemnation. It’s long past time for the U.S. authorities to end this double standard.”

Amnesty International calls on the U.S. authorities to ensure independent and impartial investigations into all credible allegations of human rights violations carried out at Guantánamo and against detainees held elsewhere. The findings should be made public, and anyone responsible for crimes under international law brought to justice, regardless of their current or former level of office.

The secrecy regarding human rights violations committed by U.S. military and intelligence officials must come to an end, the organization said.

“Impunity for crimes under international law such as torture and enforced disappearance committed against detainees, including at Guantánamo, is a festering injustice that leaves the USA in serious violation of its international obligations,” said Erika Guevara Rosas.

Amnesty International is calling for all victims of U.S. human rights violations - including current and former Guantánamo detainees - to have genuine access to meaningful remedy.

Available for interviews

Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Security & Human Rights Program
zjohnson@aiusa.org/ desk: 212.633.4256 / cell: 646.853.9779

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million members in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.