USA: Guantánamo detainees must be lifted out of ever-deepening legal black hole

The human rights organisation is calling for the detainees to be given the right to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.

Amnesty International said: 'It is a basic principle of international law that any detainee has the right to test the lawfulness of his or her detention in a court of law. By putting these detainees into a legal black hole, the US administration is supporting a world where arbitrary unchallengeable detention becomes acceptable.'

More than 600 detainees from some 40 countries are being held without charge or trial in the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Some have been held for more than a year, with no access to lawyers, relatives, or the courts. This situation of indefinite detention is inflicting cruelty on the detainees and their families.

'There can be little doubt that the US Government would not countenance such treatment of its own citizens by another country,' Amnesty International added.

By detaining people at the Guantánamo Bay naval base, the US Government appears to have effectively removed them from the reach of the US courts.

Yesterday the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the detainees may not challenge their detentions in US federal courts on the grounds that Cuba has sovereignty over Guantánamo Bay and therefore the prisoners are not protected by the US Constitution.

However, international law, including the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the USA ratified in 1992, applies to persons subject to the jurisdiction of a state party even abroad.

Amnesty International said:

'We recall the US Government's repeated assertions since 11 September 2001 that it will not relax its commitment to international human rights standards and the rule of law. Those words ring more and more hollow each day that the Guantánamo detainees are denied their fundamental rights.'

In a 61-page report sent to the US Government in April 2002, Amnesty International pointed out that the US has an international obligation to 'ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction' the fundamental civil and political rights relating to deprivation of liberty, arrest and detention agreed under the US's treaty commitments.

Amnesty International has had no response to its report or to numerous communications since. It has also not had any response or acknowledgement of its repeated requests to visit the Guantánamo detainees and officials overseeing them.

Further information:

'USA: one year on - the legal limbo of the Guantánamo detainees continues' press release, 10 January 2003

'USA: Memorandum to the US Government on the rights of people in US custody in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay' report, 15 April 2002 /p>

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