Friday, January 13, 2012

Finland: Demonstration to mark 10 years of unlawful Guantanamo detentions

The notorious U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba might be a continent away, but human rights violations committed there under the auspices of the U.S. government have not gone unnoticed in many parts of the world, including the Nordic country of Finland - where Amnesty International, Finnish Section staged a "close Guantanamo" demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Helsinki.

11 January 2012 marked 10 years since the first group of detainees arrived at notorious prison. Human rights supporters, activists and concerned citizens of the world marked the 10th anniversary with peaceful symbolic demonstrations against unlawful detentions in the facility.

Many detainees have reportedly been tortured and held without charge indefinitely for many years in Guantanamo Bay and the orange jumpsuit worn by its inmates has become the "face" of unlawful, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.

According to Amnesty International, 171 detainees were being held at Guantanamo Bay in mid-December 2011 and at least 12 of those who first arrived on 11 January 2002 were still detained. Among the 12 detainees who first arrived and are still in detention, only one has been charged and convicted (by a military court). The remaining 11 have not been charged. [source].

In a report published by Amnesty International titled Guantanamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights, the organization recalled (see page 2) that the U.S. Justice Department was aware of the fact that detentions in Guantanamo would violate international law, precisely the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the U.S. ratified in June 1992.

The ICCPR prohibits torture and other cruel inhuman treatment or punishment (Article 7), arbitrary arrest or detention (Article 9). The ICCPR also stipulates in Article 9(2) that anyone arrested shall be promptly informed of the charges against him.

It is worth reiterating at this point that many detainees in Guantanamo have not been charged.

Article 9(3) of the ICCPR states that arrested persons shall be brought "promptly" before a judge and shall be "entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release." The convention makes provision for compensation of victims of unlawful arrest or detention (Article 9(4)).

Practices in Guantanamo Bay and the response of  U.S. authorities violate all the aforementioned articles of the ICCPR.

The U.S. is also party to the UN Convention Against Torture, ratified in October 1994; a convention breached by the Guantanamo scandal.

According to Amnesty International, Guantanamo became a symbol of torture and unlawful treatment of detainees - in violation of international human rights standards and U.S. obligations under international law.

On 10th anniversary of Guantanamo, Amnesty International urged the close the facility, charge or release the detainees, bring to justice former and current U.S. officials responsible for rights violations, provide access to effective remedy for victims of violations, among other things.

In Finland, more than 8,674 kilometers from Cuba - where the infamous detention facility is located - the demands for justice were delivered by Amnesty International - Finnish Section during a demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy in Helsinki on 11 January 2012. The march to the embassy started at about 15:00. Some activists dressed in orange jumpsuits and some carried Amnesty banners that read:
The message was clear.

Note that rights groups and advocates are not against the trial or prosecution of suspects. Amnesty International, for instance, demands - among other things - that the U.S. should either charge and prosecute the detainees in fair trials or release them. [Source]. This is in line with Article 9(3) of the ICCPR.

More importantly, rights groups and activists want to see perpetrators of unlawful treatment of detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere brought to book. 

Amnesty's report, Guantanamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights, is worth reading. It contains "10 Anti-Human Rights Messages Guantanamo Still Sends."

*Photo: Amnesty International - Finnish Section's Facebook page.

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