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Inter-American Commission considers legal status of Guantanamo detainees

[JURIST] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] heard oral arguments on the legal status of detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] on Friday, pursuant to a petition to renew precautionary measures [text] initially granted in March 2002. Representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Justice and International Law [advocacy websites] argued that the continued detention of 350 individuals without charge violates the United States' obligations under the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man [text] and other international human rights and humanitarian legal norms. Lawyers from the US Department of State [official website] responded that the petitioners had not exhausted domestic remedies in US courts and questioned the authority of the IACHR to issue precautionary measures with respect to countries that are not parties to the American Convention on Human Rights [text]. IACHR President Florentin Melendez announced that the body was in the process of seeking permission from the United States to conduct a visit to the Guantanamo Bay facility later this year.

The hearing marked the fourth in which the IACHR addressed the legal status of the detainees at Guantanamo since 2002. At that time, it urged the United States to take the measures necessary to have the legal status of the detainees determined by a competent tribunal. In July 2006, the IACHR issued a resolution [text] urging the United States to close the Guantanamo Bay facility, to ensure the detainees their rights under international human rights and humanitarian law, and to investigate and prosecute any acts of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that occurred at Guantanamo.

In its 128th period of sessions [press release], the IACHR is also conducting hearings on subjects including the situation of human rights in Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, and press freedom in Venezuela and Mexico [JURIST news archives]. For a recording of the hearings, click here.

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