UN EXPERTS ADDRESS CONCERNS REGARDING
GUANTANAMO BAY DETAINEES
23 June 2005
The following statement was issued today by four independent experts of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with the endorsement of all participants at the twelfth Annual Meeting of the Special Rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of the working groups of the Special Procedures of the Commission on Human Rights:
"On the first anniversary of the request made by all Independent Experts at their eleventh Annual Meeting, we deeply regret that the Government of the United States has still not invited us to visit those persons arrested, detained or tried on grounds of alleged terrorism or other violations in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Guantanamo Bay naval base.
The request for a visit was made following the negative response to the request by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in January 2002 to visit Guantanamo Bay and the United States and the lack of a response to the joint request made by the Special Rapporteurs on torture and health in January 2004 to visit Guantanamo Bay. Such requests were based on information, from reliable sources, of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights. Many of these allegations have come to light through declassified Government documents.
The purpose of the visit would be to examine objectively the allegations first-hand and ascertain whether international human rights standards that are applicable in these particular circumstances are being upheld with respect to those detained persons.
The Independent Experts have given ample time to the Government to consider their request and have made themselves available for any needed consultations. In this regard, they note with appreciation the high-level meeting organized during the sixty-first session of the Commission on Human Rights to discuss the purpose and terms of reference for the visit. Nevertheless, the lack of a definitive answer despite repeated requests suggests that the United States is not willing to cooperate with the United Nations human rights machinery on this issue. This is particularly surprising in the light of one of the recommendations made by the Government of United States in a recent position paper entitled, "Enhancing and Strengthening the Effectiveness of the Special Procedures of the Commission on Human Rights", which says that, "States should consider [country visits] requests seriously and in the spirit of cooperation with Special Procedures, and should respond in a timely manner".
It is our conviction that no Member State of the United Nations is above international human rights law. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the lack of cooperation and given the responsibilities to our respective mandates, we will jointly conduct an investigation based on all credible sources regarding the situation of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay. In the meantime, should the Government of the United States extend a visit to Guantanamo Bay we would welcome this development and would incorporate the findings from our mission into our other investigations".
The independent experts are:
·Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
·Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health ("the right to health")
· Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
·Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Chronology of Requests for Visits regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other locations
22 January 2002: The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) sent a letter (and a reminder letter on 25 October) requesting a visit to the United States and the military base at Guantanamo Bay in order to examine in situ the legal aspects of the persons concerned. On 17 December 2002, the US Government declined the request, considering that the WGAD lacked the competence to address what it considered law of armed conflict issues and not international human rights matters.
30 January 2004: Special Rapporteurs (SRs) on torture and health sent a joint allegation letter to the US regarding continued accounts in relation to the physical and mental integrity of persons held in Guantanamo Bay and reiterated the request to visit to gather first-hand information, evaluate the situation and make appropriate recommendations in the context of their mandates regarding the detainees.
25 June 2004: the Independent Experts at the eleventh session of the Annual Meeting of Special Procedures made a joint press release (and sent statement to the US) expressing alarm at the status, conditions of detention and treatment of prisoners and requested that four experts (SRs on the Independence of judges and lawyers (IJL), torture, health and WGAD) visit at the earliest possible date detainees at Guantanamo (and Iraq and Afghanistan). On 9 November 2004 the Government replied that it was willing to provide a briefing in Washington, DC. By letter dated 22 November 2004, SRs responded that they welcomed a briefing in Geneva in the context of preparation for a visit.
4 April 2005: the SRs on IJL, Torture and WGAD had a meeting with US officials at PM of US to discuss outstanding request to visit. The US said the request was being considered at highest levels, wanted to know the SR's terms for visit regarding their objective, access to detainees, etc.
21 April 2005: in follow up to the meeting, the four experts sent a joint letter to the US with requested details: Terms of Reference (TOR) for mission, relevant resolutions, length of visit (5 days) and requested activities (visit privately with detainees, officials, observe detention related proceedings) and asked for reply by 20 May 2005. The Government responded on 20 May indicating visit request still under serious consideration.
31 May 2005: the 4 experts on IJL, Torture, Health and WGAD sent a joint letter asking the US to provide a response to the visit by 15 June as the 1st year anniversary of the joint request approaches.
Chronology of Communications regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay and other locations
16 November 2001: the Special Rapporteur (SR) on independence of judges and lawyers (IJL) issued a press release concerning the Presidential Military Order and impact on the rule of law, ie. setting up of military tribunals; absence of a guarantee of the right to legal representation while in detention; an executive review process to replace the right to appeal to a higher tribunal; and the exclusion of jurisdiction of any other courts and international tribunals.
16 January 2002: the SR on torture sent an urgent appeal expressing concerns regarding the conditions of detention, inhuman treatment, restricted access to lawyers, human rights monitors and medical treatment at Guantanamo Bay. The Government responded on 3 April 2002.
18 September 2002: the SRs on torture, IJL and migrants sent joint allegation letter regarding cases of detention of many individuals, particularly non-US nationals, since 11 September 2001. The Government responded on 1 April 2003.
12 March 2003: the SR on IJL issued a press release expressing concern regarding the establishment and operation at Guantanamo Bay. The US will be seen as systematically evading the application of domestic and international law so as to deny these suspects their legal rights. Detention without trial offends the first principle of the rule of law.
8 May 2003: the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) rendered Opinion No. 5/2003 concerning the US and considered the detention to be contrary to article 9 of both the Universal Declaration and ICCPR.
7 July 2003: the SR on IJL issued a press release expressing concern about military commissions and suspension of due process. US is seen to be defying UN resolutions, including GA resolution 57/219 of 18 December 2002 and SC resolution 1456 of 20 January 2003. These resolutions affirm that States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism must be in accordance with international law, including international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law.
22 October 2003: the SR on Torture sent an allegation letter to US regarding the conditions and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The Government responded on 3 March 2004.
8 December 2003: the SR on torture sent an allegation letter concerning return of detainees from Guantanamo and risk of refoulement. The Government responded on 3 March 2004.
3 May 2004: the SR on torture issued a press release on allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by coalition forces.
5 May 2004: the WGAD issued a press release calling on coalition authorities to allow Iraqi detainees to challenge lawfulness of detentions.
27 May 2004: the SRs on torture and summary executions sent a joint urgent appeal to the US regarding 22 ethnic Uighurs of Chinese nationality being held at Guantanamo Bay who had been reportedly been subject to inhumane treatment during interrogation and facing possible forcible return and execution in China.
2 July 2004: the SRs on IJL, torture and health sent a joint allegation letter to the US regarding the condition of six foreign nations detained in solitary confinement at Guantanamo who may be tried before a military commission without access to all due process rights guaranteed under international law.
4 Feb 2005: 6 experts (Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), WGAD, torture, health, IJL and the Independent Expert on Afghanistan) issued a joint press release regarding continued concern re: incommunicado detention, denial of legal assistance and conditions of detention that continue at Guantanamo Bay.
* *** *For use of the information media; not an official record