Guantanamo Bay Prison Should Close, UN Rights Chief Says

Guantanamo Bay prison camp should close, according to the UN rights chief on Friday. Navi Pillay stated that the hunger strike being stagey by some inmates that the naval base in southeastern Cuba was “scarcely surprising.”

In saying that Guantanamo prison camp should be shut down, Pillay explained that the indefinite imprisonment of persons without charge or a trial was a violation of international law.

Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, added:

“We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold.”

Guantanamo is still open, despite a promise made four years ago by US President Barack Obama to close the facility. The prison camp was opened by President George W. Bush in January 2002. Its purpose is to hold men captured in counter-terrorism operations.

But Pillay voiced his displeasure that the US had not followed through on its promise to close the prison camp.

The UN rights chief also welcomed comments by a White House spokesman last week saying that the president is trying to close the facility down. The spokesperson added that congressional legislation is the main reason why the problem has not been resolved.

There are currently 166 detainees in Guantanamo, but only nine of them have been charged with or convicted of crimes. About half of the detainees have already been approved for transfer either to their home countries or third countries for resettlement. Pillay added, “As a first step, those who have been cleared for release must be released.”

Some of the prisoners in Guantanamo have been detained for more than a decade. A US military spokesman at the prison confirmed that forty inmates are currently staging a hunger strike against their detention. Some have lost so much weight that they are being force-fed liquid nutrients.

The prison has been a source of contention since it opened and was even the site of a scandal involving prison guards beating prisoners.

Image via Michael Billings]