UN body calls for immediate release of Pakistani prisoner confined in Guantanamo Bay

12:10 PM | 1 Mar, 2018
UN body calls for immediate release of Pakistani prisoner confined in Guantanamo Bay
GENEVA - The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated on Wednesday that a Pakistani man held at the US Guantanamo Bay detention facility since 2006 should be released immediately and given a right to compensation.

"The detention of Ammar al-Baluchi is arbitrary, breaches international human rights law and has no legal basis," said a written opinion by the group of five independent experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council.

The five members of the group are Jos Antonio Gue­vara Bermdez from Mexico, Elina Steinerte from Latvia, Leigh Toomey from Aus­tralia, Seong-Phil Hong from South Korea and Stondji Roland Adjovi from Benin.

Al-Baluchi, a Kuwaiti-born Pakistani citizen also known as Abdul Aziz Ali, is the nephew and an alleged co-conspirator of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

The experts stated that Mr al-Baluchi had been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and had not been afforded equality of arms in terms of having adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence under the same conditions as the prosecution.

The US judicial system normally affords detainees guarantees of due process and a fair trial, but he had been denied those rights, an act of discrimination based on his status as a foreign national and his religion, the experts said.

The group further clarified that the detention of Baluchi contravened at least 13 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Earlier, in December, another expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said he had information that al-Baluchi was still being tortured, though Washington had banned 'enhanced interrogation techniques'.

A Pentagon spokesman refuted the allegation at that time expressing that such claims had been investigated on several occasions, and no credible evidence had been found.

Guantanamo Bay

The Guantanamo Bay prison opened by President George W. Bush to confine terrorism suspects captured overseas after the September 11 attacks came to limelight after it was reported that harsh detention practices were in operation, prompting the rights activists to unleash scathing criticism against the United States. His successor Barack Obama reduced the inmate population to 41 but did not fulfil his promise to close the jail permanently.

Obama's successor, President Donald Trump asked Congress for funds to upgrade the jail. Trump had said during his electoral campaign that he wanted to 'load it up with some bad dudes' giving a clue of his future strategy about the infamous detention centre.

The Working Group, which had earlier expressed concerns about Guantanamo Bay to the US government, said its closure must remain a priority.