UN body terms Pakistani’s detention at Gitmo illegal

UN body terms Pakistani’s detention at Gitmo illegal

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GENEVA: A Pakistani man held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention facility since 2006 should be released immediately and given a right to compensation, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said on Wednesday.

The detention of Ammar al-Baluchi is arbitrary, breaches international human rights law and has no legal basis, said a written opinion by the group of five independent experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Al-Baluchi, a Kuwaiti-born Pakistani citizen also known as Abdul Aziz Ali, is the nephew and an alleged co-conspirator of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and has not been afforded equality of arms in terms of having adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence under the same conditions as the prosecution,” the experts said.

The US judicial system normally affords detainees guarantees of due process and a fair trial, but he had been denied those rights, an act of discrimination based on his status as a foreign national and his religion, they said.

His detention contravened at least 13 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the group added.

The five members of the group are Jos Antonio Gue­vara Bermdez from Mexico, Elina Steinerte from Latvia, Leigh Toomey from Aus­tralia, Seong-Phil Hong from South Korea and Stondji Roland Adjovi from Benin.

In December, another expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, said he had information that al-Baluchi was still being tortured, years after Washington banned “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

A Pentagon spokesman said at the time that the allegation was not true, and such claims had been investigated on several occasions, and no credible evidence had been found.

The prison, which was opened by President George W. Bush to hold terrorism suspects captured overseas after the 9/11 attacks, came to symbolise harsh detention practices that opened the United States to accusations of torture. His successor Barack Obama reduced the inmate population to 41, but fell short of fulfilling his promise to close the jail.

President Donald Trump asked Congress last year for funds to upgrade the jail, having said during his electoral campaign that he wanted to “load it up with some bad dudes”.

The Working Group, which had earlier expressed concerns about Guantanamo Bay to the US government, said its closure must remain a priority, adding systematic imprisonment in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2018

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