UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] expressed disappointment [press release] Monday that the US government has failed to close the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] detention facility. President Barack Obama ordered the facility closed [JURIST report] by January 2010, but congressional opposition and administrative setbacks [JURIST reports] prevented the administration from meeting the deadline. In addition, the recently signed [JURIST report] National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 [HR 1540, PDF] effectively codifies indefinite military detention without charge or trial. Pillay said:
While fully recognizing the right and duty of states to protect their people and territory from terrorist acts, I remind all branches of the US Government of their obligation under international human rights law to ensure that individuals deprived of their liberty can have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed before a court. Where credible evidence exists against Guantanamo detainees, they should be charged and prosecuted. Otherwise, they must be released.She also noted that international law requires investigation of alleged human rights violations, which includes the actions that allegedly took place at Guantanmo Bay. Pillay urged the US Congress to take steps enabling the Obama adminstration to close the facility.
January marks the tenth anniversary of operations at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report]. The first detainees arrived in 2002 as "enemy combatants" in the War on Terror declared after 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder]. There are currently 171 detainees [NYT docket] being held at Guantanamo. The Obama administration originally wanted suspected terrorists to be tried before a federal civilian court, but changed its position after Congress imposed a series of restrictions [JURIST reports] barring the transfer of detainees to the US despite repeated appeals from rights groups to utilize civilian courts over military commissions. In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] stated that the main goal of the administration is to hold the people responsible [JURIST report] for 9/11 accountable in the most effective way possible.