Annual Report: USA 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: USA 2010

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Head of state and government Barack H. Obama (replaced
George W. Bush in January)

Death penalty retentionist
Population 314.7 million
Life expectancy 79.1 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 7/8 per 1,000

One hundred and ninety-eight detainees remained held in the Guantánamo detention centre at the end of 2009, despite a commitment by the new administration to close the facility by 22 January 2010. Executive reviews to determine which detainees could be released, prosecuted or transferred to other countries were initiated. By the end of the year, most Guantánamo detainees who were the subjects of habeas corpus petitions were still waiting for their cases to be heard. At least five detainees were referred for trial before revised military commissions and one other was transferred to federal court jurisdiction. Further details emerged of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees held in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secret detention programme, terminated by President Obama.

Concerns persisted about conditions in prisons, jails and immigration detention centres. The long term isolation of thousands of prisoners in super maximum security facilities continued to fall short of international standards. Dozens of people died after being stunned by police Tasers (electro-shock weapons). At least 105 people were sentenced to death and 52 executions were carried out during the year.

Women belonging to racial, ethnic and national minorities were more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women from other sectors of the population, reflecting disparities based on poverty and race in health care provision.

Counter-terror and justice

Detentions at Guantánamo

In January, the indefinite detention without charge in the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of foreign nationals designated as "enemy combatants" entered its eighth year. On 22 January, President Obama signed an executive order for the closure of the detention facility within a year. He ordered an executive review to determine which detainees could be released or prosecuted and what other "lawful means" existed for the disposition of individuals who the review determined could neither be tried by US authorities nor transferred to other countries.

The US authorities continued to refuse to allow the release into the US mainland of any Guantánamo detainee who could not be returned to his home country. In February, the Court of Appeal overturned a 2008 order by a federal judge for the release into the USA of 17 Uighur men held without charge at Guantánamo since 2002 and who could not be returned to China. In June, four of the Uighur detainees were transferred to Bermuda, and in October another six were released in Palau.

On 18 November, President Obama acknowledged that his deadline for closure of the detention facility would not be met. By the end of the year, 198 detainees remained in Guantánamo. Forty-nine detainees were transferred out of the base during 2009. A Yemeni man, Mohammad al Hanashi, died in Guantánamo in June, bringing to five the number of detainees reported to have committed suicide in the base.

Military commissions

In October, following a review of the prosecution options for Guantánamo detainees, President Obama signed into law the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, which included the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2009, amending provisions of the MCA passed three years earlier.

In November, the Attorney General announced that the Justice Department was referring five Guantánamo detainees for trial by military commission.