GITMO’S PERMANENT CHAINS
A UN report finds continued abuses at the US prison
Now comes yet another little-noted report on the continuing excesses and inhumanity at Guantánamo Bay, the post-9/11 American military prison that only two decades ago set the standard for war crimes—a standard that is now being eclipsed by the war in Ukraine.
The report’s author is Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and the Queens University in Belfast, and an experienced human rights investigator. She based her report on a four-day visit to the island prison last February. She was given extraordinary access to the thirty-four prisoners who then remained in captivity, most of whom have been found guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong place in Afghanistan at the wrong time. Thirty prisoners remain in Guantánamo today, sixteen of whom have been cleared for release.
Ní Aoláin is a brilliant observer. She is the first UN official ever to be allowed to visit the prison. She acknowledges that the basic living conditions of the remaining prisoners have been much improved in the recent years as the population of detainees dwindled, but those improvements, she writes, are offset for those still jailed by the “cumulative effects of past rendition, disappearance, incommunicado detention, systematic torture and ill treatment, and continued detention,” which “have had severe and long-term psychological and physical consequences.” She is especially critical, as were past observers, of what she found to be “serious structural and institutional deficiencies in present care.” She links those concerns with her unique observation that the medical and psychiatric care available “may trigger for some detainees previous experiences of torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.” She noted that the US government’s “failure to provide such care exacerbates the impact of the horrific treatment or punishment they previously suffered and prolongs the consequences.”