UN rights experts call for end to secret prisons

[JURIST] UN rights experts on Thursday called on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to investigate findings from a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] released earlier this year detailing the secret imprisonment of terrorism [JURIST news archives] suspects by 66 countries including the US, Ethiopia, Romania, and Pakistan. UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment Manfred Nowak [official website] indicated that secret prisons [JURIST news archive] remain a widespread problem [press release] and can often lead to torture. He also stated that fighting terrorism cannot be used as an excuse for torture or to subvert the judicial process. The report, presented to the UN General Assembly in February, criticized the use of secret prisons stating:

Secret detention violates the right to personal liberty and the prohibition of arbitrary arrest or detention. No jurisdiction should allow for individuals to be deprived of their liberty in secret for potentially indefinite periods, held outside the reach of the law, without the possibility of resorting to legal procedures, including habeas corpus.
Several countries taking part in the dialogue questioned the report's validity due to the anonymous information cited in the study.

The UN report is not the only report to link the incidence of torture to secret prisons. Last month, the Red Cross confirmed [JURIST report] the existence of a secret detention facility at Bagram Air Base [official website; JURIST news archive]. The confirmation came one month after nine Afghan witnesses claimed they were held and tortured in a secret US prison [JURIST report] at Bagram. In April, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] detailed the repeated torture [press release; JURIST report] of Iraqi detainees in a secret prison in Baghdad. Last December, the Lithuanian Parliament reported [JURIST report] that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] established two secret prisons for al Qaeda suspects in the country.

 

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