Guantanamo: 'Toxic rule of law', Amnesty tells US Consul General in Belfast

The failure of the US government to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is leaving a toxic legacy for human rights, Amnesty International said on the tenth “anniversary” (11 January 2011) of the first detainees being transferred to the notorious US detention centre.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, Patrick Corrigan, met the United States Consul General in Belfast, Kevin Roland (Tuesday 10 January), and presented him with a 64-page report published ahead of the anniversary, “Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights”. The Amnesty report highlights the unlawful treatment of Guantánamo detainees and outlines reasons why the detention centre continues to represent an attack on the rule of law.  

Despite President Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo by 22 January 2010, 171 men are still being held at the camp. Of these, at least 12 were in the original group first transferred to Guantánamo on 11 January 2002. One of them is serving a life sentence after being convicted by a military commission in 2008. None of the other 11 has been charged.

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, Patrick Corrigan, said:
“Our message to the US Consul General is that Guantánamo has come to symbolise ten years of a systematic failure by the USA to respect human rights in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

“The US government disregarded human rights from day one of the Guantánamo detentions. As we move into year 11 in the life of the detention facility, this failure continues."

In ten years, only one of the 779 detainees held at the base has been transferred to the USA for prosecution in an ordinary federal court. Others have faced unfair trials by military commission. The administration is currently intending to seek the death penalty against six of the detainees at such trials.

Current Guantánamo detainees include those who were subjected to torture and enforced disappearance prior to being transferred to the camp. There has been little or no accountability for these crimes under international law committed in a programme of secret detention operated under US presidential authority. Instead, the US government has systematically blocked attempts by former detainees to seek redress for such violations.

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