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27 May, 2013 16:53

Guantanamo an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists - UN human rights chief

Guantanamo an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists - UN human rights chief

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has scolded the US for failing to close Guantanamo prison, warning it “has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists.” Pillay also cautioned that curtailing freedoms to fight terror will only worsen the problem.

Speaking at the opening of the spring session of the UN's Human Rights Council, Pillay accused the Obama administration of human rights violations, pointing to the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba as an "example of the struggle against terrorism failing to uphold human rights, among them the right to a fair trial," Reuters reports.

Follow RT’s day-by-day timeline of the Gitmo hunger strike

A reported 103 inmates are participating in the ongoing hunger strike at Guantanamo, 30 of whom are still being force-fed. Force-feeding is an extremely invasive and highly controversial practice, which many human rights activists – and the UN – consider to torture.

According to Kuwaiti-born detainee Fayiz al-Kandari, the nasal tubes used for force-feeding are large, painful and have hazardous side effects: "It takes several attempts to get the tube into the right place,” his lawyer Carlos Warner told RT. “Once it goes down his throat he has a difficult time breathing. There’s a gag reflex.”

Feeding chair and internal nourishment preparation inside the Joint Medical Group where the detainees receive medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10, 2013. (Image from publicintelligence.net / photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)

Feeding chair and internal nourishment preparation inside the Joint Medical Group where the detainees receive medical care, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 10, 2013. (Image from publicintelligence.net / photo By Army Sgt. Brian Godette)

Witnesses have claimed that Guantanamo guards used sexual assault as an interrogation technique to extract information from Muslim inmates.

“The torture and information extraction methods that we used certainly created a great deal of doubt and questions in my mind to whether or not this was my America,” Terry Holdbrooks, a former guard at the camp said in an interview with RT.

There have also been incidents where guards used force unprovoked against detainees. Ramzi Kassem, the lawyer for Moath al Alawi, said that guards shot five rubber bullets at his client for no discernible reason.

Many of the 166 detainees have been held for more than a decade without charge, and their continued detention amounted to “arbitrary detention in breach of international law,” Pillay said, reiterating her earlier accusations against the Obama administration.

"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," she said in April.

US President Barack Obama vowed to close Guantanamo in 2009, at the outset of his first term in office. However, he was blocked from fulfilling that promise by legislation passed by the US Congress. However, in a speech on May 23 this year Obama indicated his willingness to resume prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay, but offered few details on the planned changes and when they would be implemented.

In his speech, Obama urged lawmakers in Washington to enact his proposals immediately: “I have tried to close GTMO. I transferred 67 detainees to other countries before Congress imposed restrictions to effectively prevent us from either transferring detainees to other countries, or imprisoning them in the United States. These restrictions make no sense.”

US President Barack Obama speaks about his administration's drone and counterterrorism policies, as well as the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, May 23, 2013 (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Counter-terror policies stoke terrorism, not prevent it

The military prison at Guantanamo Bay was opened by the administration of former President George W. Bush following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the US. It eventually emerged that measures designed to tighten security at the prison led to abuses of power and human rights violations.

Concerns about the effectiveness of current counter-terror policies were raised in the past week after attacks against soldiers in London and Paris – the London slaying of 25-year-old Lee Rigby by two men was apparently in retaliation for UK military involvement in Muslim countries.

UN human rights chief Pillay likewise warned against excessive “counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations,” saying that she had received allegations of "very grave violations of human rights… Such practices are self-defeating. Measures that violate human rights do not uproot terrorism, they nurture it."

Her statement comes amid mounting calls in both France and the UK to toughen anti-terror measures following recent attacks in both capitals. In London, an off-duty soldier was killed and beheaded by two men, and an off-duty soldier in Paris was stabbed in a separate attack. Pillay did not refer to either case in her remarks.

A framed photograph of Drummer Lee Rigby lies amongst floral tributes outside Woolwich Barracks in London on May 23, 2013.(AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

Following the Woolwich murder, debates over the bill widely known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ has reappeared in the UK along with calls for tighter controls on extremist groups.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May said on Sunday that it was “essential” to grant intelligence agencies the capacity to access communications and data collections by Internet service providers, including details of individuals' web browsing history, social media messages and internet gaming, storing them all for 12 months, despite overwhelming opposition to the Draft Communications Data Bill.

However, such practices implemented in the US failed to secure the country from acts of terrorism.

Not only being ineffective, they also cost the US budget over $700 billion since 9/11. This, however, did not help to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing.  

“I believe this was a massive failure of the surveillance state that we’ve created in America,” American lawyer Jesselyn Radack told RT. “Since 9/11 we spent over $700 billion on national security and a lot of that is surveillance with video cameras, with massive data collection, with fusion centers, and none of those helped to deter or detect any terrorist plot. And while the surveillance video was useful in reconstructing what happened it didn’t prevent it.”