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Guantanamo releases: Fresh call for justice for all remaining prisoners

Releases come shortly after new anti-‘waterboarding’ film denounces torture

Following the release of nine detainees from the US-run military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Amnesty International has today renewed its condemnation of detentions at the camp, denouncing the prison as “a travesty of justice”. The organisation is calling for all 270 remaining prisoners to either be brought to a fair trial or safely released.

The nine men were the first to be released from the naval base this year. Among them was Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Hajj, held without charge at Guantánamo for almost six years. Amnesty International remains particularly concerned for his health and well-being after his years of indefinite detention and other alleged abuses, including in the context of his prolonged hunger-striking.

Sami al-Hajj was repatriated with two other Sudanese nationals held at Guantánamo: Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali. On arrival in Sudan Sami al-Hajj was taken straight from the plane to hospital on a stretcher.

A fourth detainee, Saïd Boujaâdia, was returned to Morocco, and was reportedly taken into custody by the judicial police in Casablanca. Amnesty International is monitoring his situation and calls on the Moroccan authorities to ensure that his treatment fully complies with international law. He should be given access to legal counsel and independent medical care, and either charged promptly with recognisable criminal offences and brought to fair trial, or released.

According to the Penatagon, five other detainees were also transferred to Afghanistan. Amnesty International has no further details on these detainees at this stage. It similarly calls on the Afghan authorities to ensure that all treatment and any trials of returned detainees fully comply with international law and standards, and in no way perpetuates the unlawful treatment that the Guantánamo detainees have faced.

Amnesty International said:

“The USA government should abandon its trials by military commissions, which are not independent of the same branch of government that has authorised and condoned abuses against detainees and which may rely on information coerced under ill-treatment.”

As well as denying those held at Guantánamo and elsewhere the right to challenge their detentions in an independent and impartial court, in line with the centuries-old right to habeas corpus, the US authorities have subjected detainees to treatment and conditions that violate the absolute prohibition on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Investigations into such abuses have been inadequate.

The CIA has admitted that at least three of the current detainees at Guantánamo have been subjected to “waterboarding” torture, or partial drowning. Last week Amnesty International issued a new campaigning film (“Stuff Of Life”: www.unusbscribe-me-org ) to highlight widespread opposition to abusive “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The film has been viewed an estimated one million times since its release on 22 April.

Amnesty International added:

“The USA government must permanently close the Guantánamo detention facility, and put an end to the secret detention programme operated by the CIA. The USA must bring all its detentions everywhere into full compliance with international law and standards,” said Amnesty International.

“There must be full accountability for all human rights violations, including the international crimes of torture and enforced disappearance.”

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