A Palestinian man held in Guantánamo Bay is leading the United States, Britain and five other states before a UN human rights panel for their role in the CIA handover and detention of suspected terrorists in “black places” around the world.
The unusual case is brought to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) by Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, known as Abu Zubaydah, who has been detained for 1
UNWGAD, part of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has a mandate to investigate individual complaints of arbitrary detention and issue opinions and calls for redress, but has no powers to impose sanctions on countries that do not comply with them.
Abu Zubaydah is a 50-year-old Palestinian raised in Saudi Arabia who was detained in 2002 and handed over to the CIA. He was initially described as an al-Qaeda leader, but the agency in 2006 had concluded that he had not even been a member of the group. However, he has been detained in Guantánamo ever since with no prospect of release.
His trial, sent to the UN panel on Friday, says he was detained in arbitrary detention and tortured in secret CIA interrogation facilities in Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Lithuania, Afghanistan and the US prison in Guantánamo. He is also suing the British government, which he accuses of “complicity in reproduction” for participating in interrogations and receiving information it knew was obtained under torture.
This is the first time that legal action has been taken against Britain, Afghanistan, Morocco and Thailand for their role in the CIA’s transfer and torture program.
“After 19 years of arbitrary detention, the only appropriate remedy is against Abu Zubaydah’s release and rehabilitation,” said his international legal representative, Helen Duffy. “Recognition, apology, transparency, accountability and ensuring that these violations do not happen again are all legal obligations, grossly neglected in the war on terror and the subject of this allegation. But they are meaningless if ongoing violations are not brought to an end. ”
Joe Biden has promised to close the Guantánamo prison camp and either release or transfer the remaining 40 inmates. But Barack Obama also promised to close the camp, but ran into opposition from the Pentagon and Congress and only succeeded in sharply reducing the number of inmates.
“How the Biden administration responds to international legal demands like this will be a test of its recently declared commitment to international law and human rights,” said Duffy, who is also director of the Human Rights in Practice law firm.