| 22 April 2024, Monday |

First UN investigator at US detention facility Guantanamo exposes cruel treatment of detainees

In a significant development, Irish law professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the United Nations’ inaugural independent investigator to visit the US detention center in Guantanamo Bay, has unveiled that the 30 individuals detained there are subjected to persistent cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, which contravenes international law.
Presenting her comprehensive 23-page report to the UN Human Rights Council, Ní Aoláin emphasised that while the 2001 attacks were indeed crimes against humanity, the subsequent use of torture and rendition by the United States against alleged perpetrators and their associates constituted a grave breach of international human rights law, reported the Associated Press.

This, she argued, not only violated the rights of the detainees but also hindered the pursuit of justice, as information obtained through torture is inadmissible in trials.
Ní Aoláin’s visit to Guantanamo Bay marked the first time a US administration had permitted a UN investigator to examine the facility since its establishment in 2002. Commending this as a positive step towards addressing challenging human rights issues, the professor called upon other countries that restrict UN access to detention facilities to follow suit. During her visit, she was granted unrestricted access to the detention centre, including meetings with both “high-value” and “non-high value” detainees.

In response to the report, the United States submitted a statement to the Human Rights Council, emphasising that the investigator’s findings were solely her own and expressing significant disagreement with many of her factual and legal assertions.

While Ní Aoláin acknowledged that some improvements had been made in the confinement of detainees, she voiced serious concerns about the ongoing detention of the 30 men, highlighting their severe insecurity, suffering, and anxiety. She provided examples of constant surveillance, forced removal from cells, and unjust use of restraints as manifestations of their mistreatment. Many detainees she encountered displayed profound psychological distress, including anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, stress, depression, and dependency.

The professor expressed grave concern about the US government’s failure to provide adequate torture rehabilitation programs for the detainees. She criticised the existing specialist care and facilities at Guantanamo, deeming them inadequate to address the complex and urgent mental and physical health issues faced by the detainees, such as permanent disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain, gastrointestinal and urinary problems. Additionally, she shed light on the deprivation of support from families and communities, the lengthy detention without trial or charges, hunger strikes, force-feeding, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and premature ageing experienced by the detainees.

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