I hope you’re doing well. I wanted to make sure you saw that UN human rights and counterterrorism expert Fionnuala Ní Aoláin announced today that she will be visiting the Guantanamo Bay detention facility as part of a trip to the US beginning on Feb. 6.
Ní Aoláin’s trip will mark the first time a UN rights official has been allowed access to Guantanamo since the facility was opened more than 21 years ago.
Ní Aoláin – the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – will publish a report with findings and recommendations based on her visit and interviews with former detainees and family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Below, please see the UN’s media advisory, as well as quotes and contact info for experts from the ACLU, the Center for Victims of Torture, and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, who are available to provide additional comments and insights about the visit.
All the best, Bryan
Peace and Security Associate
Scott Roehm – Washington Director, Center for Victims of Torture: “Credit the Biden administration for working with Ní Aoláin and her team to make this first-ever visit happen. U.N. Special Procedures are critical to holding the U.S. accountable to its international human rights obligations generally, and with respect to Guantanamo specifically. It will be important for the Special Rapporteur to assess, in particular, detainees’ conditions of confinement and access to appropriate medical care—including how those issues intersect with the military commission system—given the widespread prevalence of torture and trauma among the men who remain captive at Guantanamo.”
Hina Shamsi – Director of the National Security Project, American Civil Liberties Union: “We commend the Biden administration for agreeing to let a U.N. human rights expert visit Guantanamo, finally ending a shameful U.S. government moratorium that sought to establish a prison outside the reach of law. International human rights norms and institutions are integral to preventing the torture, indefinite detention, and unfair trials that now symbolize Guantanamo globally. It should never have taken two decades, but we’re encouraged to see the basic principle of U.N. rights officials’ independent access to all sites of detention and detainees respected at long last by our country.”
Contact: Allegra Harpootlian: firstname.lastname@example.org
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: “For more than 21 years 9/11 victims and victims’ family members have sought justice and accountability for the crimes of September 11, 2002. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows deeply appreciates the willingness of the Special Rapporteur’s office and the Biden Administration to work together to make her visit to Guantanamo possible. As 9/11 family members, we remain gravely concerned about the absence of justice within the military commission system. We welcome the commitment of the Special Rapporteur to the human rights of victims of terrorism and we hope that her work can inform a path forward to judicial finality for family members, the accused, and all those affected by 9/11 and its aftermath.”
Contact: Terry Rockefeller: email@example.com
UN counterterrorism expert to visit the United States and Guantanamo detention facility
GENEVA (1 February 2023) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, will undertake a technical visit to the United States commencing 6 February 2023.
Between 6 and 14 February, the independent expert will visit Washington D.C. and subsequently the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Over the course of the subsequent three-month period, Ní Aoláin will also carry out a series of interviews with individuals in the United States and abroad, on a voluntary basis, including victims and families of victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and former detainees in countries of resettlement/repatriation.
The visit takes place in accordance with the Terms of Reference for Country Visits by Special Procedures Mandate Holders.
An end-of-mission statement of the Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations will be issued following the end of the technical visit.
Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism by the United Nations Human Rights Council. She took up her functions on 1 August 2017. Ms. Ní Aoláin is concurrently Regents Professor and Robina Professor of Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School and Professor of Law at the Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her mandate covers all countries and has most recently been renewed by Human Rights Council resolution 49/10.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Michelle ERAZO (+41 22 917 9449; firstname.lastname@example.org).
For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz (email@example.com) or Dharisha Indraguptha (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.