Guantanamo Bay detention of Pakistani national has no legal basis, UN warns | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 28.02.2018
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Guantanamo Bay detention of Pakistani national has no legal basis, UN warns

A UN working group has said Ammar al-Baluchi's detention at the US Guantanamo Bay prison violates international human rights law. It comes after US President Donald Trump signed an order to keep the facility open.

A United Nations rights group warned the United States on Wednesday that the detention of Ammar al-Baluchi was "arbitrary and breaches international human rights law."

"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 defense under the same conditions as the prosecution," a panel for the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said.

Read more: Guantanamo at 15: Doomed or resurrected?

The group, which will report its findings to the UN Human Rights Council, called for al-Baluchi's immediate release and right to compensation and reparations, such as physical and psychological rehabilitation.

USA 2008 | Terror trial of Ammar al-Baluchi in Guantanamo (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Linsley)

A sketch of Ammar al-Baluchi, taken during the 2008 trial in Guantanamo against the suspected conspirators behind 9/11

Al-Baluchi, a Kuwaiti-born Pakistani national, was arrested in Karachi in 2003 and has been held at Guantanamo since 2006. The US believes he was a co-conspirator behind the September 11 attacks on New York City. His uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is also being held at Guantanamo, has been accused of being the mastermind behind the attack.

According to the group, al-Baluchi's detention contravenes at least 13 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Tortured

In December, another UN-mandated investigator, Nils Melzer, reported that al-Baluchi was still being tortured at Guantanamo, years after the United States vowed it had banned "enhanced interrogation techniques."

The Pentagon has denied Melzer's findings, saying it failed to provide any credible evidence.

The UN group said on Wednesday that the psychological and physical trauma he had suffered prior to arriving at Guantanamo had made it impossible to give him a fair trial.

Read more: Guantanamo: Where US terror prisoners occupy Cuban soil

"Mr. al-Baluchi has been deprived of due process and the fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States," the UN panel said. "This act of discrimination on the basis of his status as a foreign national and his religion has denied Mr. al-Baluchi equality before the law."

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Trump doubles down on Guantanamo

The UN working group's findings come a month after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order allowing Guantanamo to remain open and for new prisoners to be sent there.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he wanted to "load it up with some bad dudes."

Read more: Guantanamo question hangs over Obama's legacy

The measure reverses an unfulfilled promise from his predecessor, Barack Obama, to shut Guantanamo. Obama reduced the inmate population to 41 but fell short of his vow to close the facility.

The UN working group had previously voiced its concerns to Washington about the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It has also warned that the systematic imprisonment of terror suspects by the US may constitute crimes against humanity.

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