GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States is still flouting international law at Guantanamo Bay, despite President Barack Obama’s election pledge to shut the facility, the United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Monday.
“It is ten years since the U.S. Government opened the prison at Guantanamo, and now three years since 22 January 2009, when the President ordered its closure within twelve months. Yet the facility continues to exist and individuals remain arbitrarily detained - indefinitely - in clear breach of international law,” Pillay said in a statement.
Former President George W. Bush set up the camp at a U.S. naval base in Cuba after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to expel al Qaeda which had launched the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Eight prisoners have died at Guantanamo, two deaths ascribed to natural causes and the rest classified as suicides, and many detainees have said they were tortured. Only six trials have been completed in 10 years.
“While fully recognizing the right and duty of states to protect their people and territory from terrorist acts, I remind all branches of the U.S. government of their obligation under international human rights law to ensure that individuals deprived of their liberty can have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed before a court,” Pillay said.
“Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.”
Obama had planned to move some detainees to the United States, but Congress blocked funding for that plan and tightly restricted all transfers out, demanding his administration must notify congressional intelligence committees and guarantee the prisoner will not engage in terrorism.
Pillay urged Congress to enable the administration to close the camp.
Reporting by Tom Miles