07 June 2023 :
(June 2, 2023) - U.N. Body Condemns Torture of Guantánamo Prisoner Awaiting Capital Trial
A United Nations human rights panel has issued a damning report that blames the United States and 7 other nations for the C.I.A.’s “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” of a Saudi prisoner who now awaits a death penalty trial at Guantánamo Bay.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), based in Geneva, also named as responsible the United Arab Emirates, where the prisoner, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was captured in 2002, and Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, where he was held as part of a rendition and interrogation program run by the George W. Bush administration.
The Working Group is composed of five independent experts of balanced geographical representation. Together, they investigate individual cases and produce reports and opinions in order to fulfil the mandate. They meet three times a year in Geneva.
In the 18-page report adopted on Nov. 15 last year, but only discreetly made public on June 2, the WGAD (which has no enforcement authority), determined that all eight countries were "jointly responsible for the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Mr. al-Nashiri".
"The submissions that Mr. al-Nashiri was tortured stand unrefuted," it said, also finding that all eight countries were responsible for his "arrest, rendition and arbitrary detention".
Nashiri's lawyer Sylvain Savolainen described the decision as "immensely powerful and important".
The working group, made up of five independent experts, whose opinions are not binding but carry reputational weight, called on the countries to "take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Al-Nashiri without delay".
Taking into account all the circumstances of the case, they said "the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. al-Nashiri immediately", and provide him compensation and reparations.
And they called for "a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. al-Nashiri, including an independent inquiry into his allegations of torture".
They noted among other things that the medical care given there "has been and remains grossly deficient".
"The Working Group is obliged to remind the government of the United States that all persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person," they said.
The experts stressed that while they were addressing Nashiri's case in particular, "the conclusions reached here also apply to other detainees in similar situations a Guantanamo Bay".
And they cautioned that "under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty, in violation of international law, may constitute crimes against humanity".
The group called for the immediate release of and compensation for Mr. Nashiri, who is accused of orchestrating the bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer Cole off Yemen nearly 23 years ago. It said the Guantánamo war crimes court, which was devised to prosecute only non-U.S. citizens, deprives Mr. Nashiri of “the fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States.”
The finding is the latest in a series of U.N. investigations condemning the previous and current treatment of detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay at a time when lawyers and the International Committee of the Red Cross have protested inadequate health care for the last detainees there.
The U.N. bodies are also refocusing attention on the Pentagon prison, which holds 30 prisoners of the war on terrorism, including 17 men for whom the Biden administration is seeking countries to offer them resettlement.
The report could be presented to a sentencing jury of U.S. military officers in Mr. Nashiri’s case. In October 2021, a military jury in the case of another Guantánamo prisoner who was tortured by the C.I.A. urged clemency and called that prisoner’s abuse “a stain on the moral fiber of America.”
U.S. investigations and testimony in Mr. Nashiri’s case show he was waterboarded by psychologists working as contractors for the C.I.A., confined naked to a claustrophobic wooden box, and subjected to threats and violence, including rectal abuse, by agency staff members.
His military commissions case has been in pretrial proceedings since 2011. 17 U.S. sailors were killed in the suicide bombing of the Cole in Aden Harbor, and prosecutors argue the case can be tried in the court that was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers describe him as a torture survivor who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other conditions attributed to untreated physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
Mr. Nashiri has more hearings this month focused on what evidence can be used at his eventual capital trial. The judge in the case is retiring, and a new one is expected to take over this summer.
In the case submitted to the working group last June, lawyers maintained that after Nashiri was captured in Dubai in 2002, he spent four years shuttled between various CIA black sites -- in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, -- being tortured and abused.
He arrived at Guantanamo Bay in 2006, where he remains detained.
He was only charged in 2008, and his military commission death penalty case still remains in pre-trial proceedings.