Pakistani man’s Guantanamo detention breaches human rights law: UN experts

Ammar al Baluchi has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006

Murtaza Ali Shah
The experts said the Pakistani national Ammar al Baluchi was suffering a serious and ongoing violation of his right to be presumed innocent. — FILE photo

LONDON: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has concluded that the United States' detention of a Pakistani man Ammar al Baluchi at Guantanamo Bay is arbitrary and breaches international human rights law.

The UN Working Group - comprising human rights experts - urged the US government to allow them to visit the infamous detention centre, saying that its continued operation was a source of deep concern and its closure must remain a priority for the government.

The group stated that al Baluchi was being kept in US detention with no legal basis and had been denied his rights to be brought promptly before a judge and to challenge the lawfulness of his detention before a court.

“Mr al Baluchi has been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and has 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 working group said in its written findings.

The experts said the Pakistani national, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006, was suffering a serious and ongoing violation of his right to be presumed innocent. This fact, alongside psychological and physical trauma resulting from torture he had suffered prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay, made it impossible for him to receive a fair trial, the group of human rights experts added.

“Mr al Baluchi has been deprived of due process and the fair trial,” the group said. “This act of discrimination on the basis of his status as a foreign national and his religion has denied Mr al Baluchi equality before the law.

Ammar al Baluchi. Photo: Amnesty International 

The experts say al Baluchi’s detention contravenes no fewer than 13 separate articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The working group said al Baluchi should be released immediately.

The experts also noted: “Widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention comprised of five independent expert members from five regions of the world:Jose Antonio Guevara Bermudez (Mexico), current Chair-Rapporteur; Elina Steinerte (Latvia), Leigh Toomey (Australia), Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea), and Setondji Roland Adjovi (Benin).

al Baluchi’s case was considered by the working group when it met in Geneva from November 20 to 24, 2017.