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March 4, 2018

Cells of doom


March 4, 2018

Almost 16 years after the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention centre run by the US on Cuban soil opened up, inmates accused of terrorism continue to be held at the facility often without trial or a fair opportunity to prove their innocence. Now a UN working group has warned that the detention of Pakistani national Ammar al-Baluchi at the prison is illegal and violates international rights. There has been no immediate response from Pakistan, whose own ties with the US are currently undergoing transformation. While former US president Barack Obama brought the population of prisoners at Gitmo down to around 40, six of them Pakistanis, he failed to close down the centre as he had vowed to do. And President Donald Trump recently signed a document to keep the facility open, following up on his campaign promises of putting more “bad dudes” into Gitmo.

The UN group has expressed concern over the condition in which prisoners are held, as well as violation of due legal process and allegations of torture. The UN has also said that Baluchi, picked up in Karachi in 2003 and held at Guantanamo since 2006, was subjected to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds without being offered adequate facilities to prepare his defence. The UN has sought his immediate release and compensation for all that he has suffered in terms of physical and psychological rehabilitation. One must also talk about the fact that it seems Pakistani authorities seem to have done little of any value regarding the Pakistani citizens currently held in Guantanamo Bay. With the dire warning from the UN about conditions at Gitmo, the grotesque ill treatment of prisoners and the denial to them of basic rights, Islamabad should be stepping up pressure to free its nationals in that prison. Concerns have been voiced over and over again by rights watchdog bodies about the manner in which these people are being treated and failure to offer them anything resembling justice. Ammar al-Baluchi is just one among them. His detention has contravened at least 13 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other covenants. It is crucial rights groups and official authorities from Pakistan make an effort to look into the cases of those detained in Guantanamo Bay, so that perhaps some of the men can try and make an attempt to rebuild their lives.

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