UN and OSCE rights monitors demand Guantanamo camp closure

European and UN human rights experts urged US President Barack Obama on Monday to shut down the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison camp on Cuba, arguing that its operation undermines the fight against terrorism.

Obama ordered the closure of the camp - which lies on a US naval base in Cuba - during his first week in office in 2009, but has failed to follow through on the promise amid strong opposition from Congress and difficulty in finding other nations to accept detainees.

Another detainee was released Monday, the Pentagon said, as Obama aims to reduce the number of Guantanamo detainees to fewer than 100 by early this year as part of his goal to shutter the facility.

Muhammed Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani, 40, is being sent to his native Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said.

Al-Shamrani fought for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan before being captured in Pakistan in 2001 and may have been a bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, according to military files released by WikiLeaks.

A previous military review had concluded he could not be released because he was at high risk of returning to the fight, but a review last year cleared him for release.

Obama is to present soon a long-awaited plan to Congress outlining his plans to close the facility that has housed terrorist suspects since shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

A total of 17 detainees are expected to be released this month, including three who were freed last week, after being cleared by Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

"These men have suffered years of arbitrary detention without trial, having been placed outside of the rule of law and the reach of United States regular courts," the human rights chief of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and four UN rapporteurs said in an open letter.

They said that "it is clear that arbitrary detention and lack of accountability for the mistreatment of current and former Guantanamo detainees continue to undermine the moral authority with which terrorism must be fought."

The US administration should either charge the detainees and ensure their fair trials or set them free, demanded Michael Georg Link, the former German deputy foreign minister who heads the OSCE human rights office in Warsaw.

The open letter was also signed by the UN's top torture expert Juan Mendez, independent justice expert Monica Pinto, counterterrorism expert Ben Emmerson and arbitrary detention expert Hong Seong-Phil.

Last update: Tue, 28/06/2016 - 17:25

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