UNITED NATIONS - The UN human rights chief expressed concern Wednesday at
recent US legislative and judicial actions that she said leave hundreds of
detainees without any way to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.
Louise Arbour referred to the
Military Commissions Act approved by Congress last year and last month's federal
appeals court ruling that Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot use the US court
system to challenge their detention. The case is likely to go to the Supreme
A detainee is escorted by military guards inside Camp Delta's
Maximum Security area on the US Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in
Arbour was critical of the ruling, calling on the judicial system to "rise to
its long-standing reputation as a guardian of fundamental human rights and civil
liberties and provide the protection to all that are under the authority,
control, and therefore in my view jurisdiction of the United States."
Twice before, the Supreme Court issued ruling giving Guantanamo detainees
full access to courts. But last June, the justices suggested President Bush
could ask Congress for more anti-terrorism authority, prompting passage of the
commissions act that in part stripped federal court review.
The act grants suspects at Guantanamo Bay the right to confront the evidence
against them and have a lawyer present at specially created "military
commissions." But it does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel
and specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging
their detentions in federal courts.
"I am very concerned that we continue to see detention without trial and
with, in my opinion, insufficient judicial supervision," Arbour told a news
conference after meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
"I thought there had been progress in that direction.
There's been a legislative setback now recently in my view, a judicial
decision," she said. These people have "no credible mechanism to ascertain the
validity of these ... suspicious or allegations."