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Guantanamo: UN experts condemn torture of Saudi prisoner and call for release

UN report states that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri should receive compensation for his treatment at Guantanamo Bay
Activists calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison participate in a protest in front of the White House on 11 January 2023 at Lafayette Square in Washington.
Activists calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison participate in a protest in front of the White House on 11 January 2023 at Lafayette Square in Washington (AFP)

A United Nations group of rights experts has released a scathing report criticising the US and more than half a dozen other countries for the torture and inhumane treatment of a Saudi detainee currently awaiting trial at Guantanamo Bay.

In addition to the US, the UN working group on arbitrary detention also named Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, where the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was captured in 2002.

The group of experts adopted the non-binding report in November 2022, but did not release it until last week.

It called for Nashiri's immediate release and for him to receive compensation, adding that the war crimes court at Guantanamo deprives him of "fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States".

"The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. al-Nashiri immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law," the report said.

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The authors reached out to all countries for a response, but did not receive any comment from Thailand, Afghanistan, the US or the UAE. Middle East Eye reached out to the US State Department and Emirati embassy in Washington for comment, but didn't receive a response by time of publication.

The release of the report comes after lawyers for Nashiri filed a complaint with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court that hears allegations of wrongdoing by British security services.

Nashiri's lawyers have called on the tribunal to consider his complaint, which accused UK agencies of having “aided, abetted, encouraged, facilitated and/or conspired with the US authorities in his mistreatment”.

Nashiri is one of Guantanamo's several "high-value detainees" identified by the US government.

He is accused of plotting al-Qaeda's suicide bombing of the US Navy destroyer Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000, which killed 17 US servicemen.

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Nashiri was captured two years later and spent four years in CIA custody, where he was subjected to waterboarding, isolation, sleep deprivation and mock executions. For a decade, his case has been bogged down in pretrial proceedings as the court tries to deal with the legacy of the torture.

In 2015, Poland awarded him 100,000 euros ($113,500) after the European Court of Human Rights condemned the country for hosting secret CIA prisons, saying it knowingly abetted the unlawful imprisonment of Nashiri between 2002-03.

Earlier this year, the UN special rapporteur on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, announced that she would visit Guantanamo.

The report also comes as momentum is building for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner population at the detention centre now stands at 30, after an Algerian detainee was released in April.

US President Joe Biden has begun a quiet effort to close the detention centre, with hopes of transferring out the remaining population eligible for release, but detainees ineligible for release are an obstacle.

The Biden administration is discussing options, including a possible executive order, to further reduce the number of detainees in the coming months and ultimately close the detention facility by the end of Biden’s current term, according to one current and one former administration official speaking to NBC News.

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