The United Nations’ top human rights official pressed the U.S. on Friday to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, strongly criticizing the indefinite detention of inmates at the facility.
President Barack Obama pledged to shutter the prison soon after taking office, but Congress opposed it, passing a law that prohibits the government from transferring Guantánamo prisoners to U.S. soil and requiring security guarantees before they can be sent elsewhere.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said she is “deeply disappointed” Washington hasn’t closed the facility. She urged all branches of the government to work together to shut it.
Pillay, who has long urged Guantánamo’s closure, said in a statement that “the continuing indefinite incarceration of many of the detainees amounts to arbitrary detention and is in clear breach of international law.”
She welcomed a recent White House statement that the administration remains committed to closing the facility.
“Nevertheless, this systemic abuse of individuals’ human rights continues year after year,” Pillay said. “We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments, but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold. When other countries breach these standards, the U.S. – quite rightly – strongly criticizes them for it.”
Pillay said of a hunger strike currently being staged by detainees that “given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantánamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures.”
The U.S. military said Friday that it had classified 41 of the 166 detainees at Guantánamo as hunger strikers, 11 of them being fed by tubes feeding nutritional supplements into their stomachs. The Guantánamo prison says the hunger strike began about a month ago. Lawyers for the detainees say it has been going on twice as long, and that the majority of the captives consider themselves hunger strikers.