The ‘forever hostage’ at Guantanamo Bay has asked the United Nations to intervene

Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner who has been held without charge or trial for 19 years, filed a complaint with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (UNWGAD) on Friday, demanding the intervention in his case. After the September 11 attacks, Zubaydah was apprehended in Pakistan and held and tortured by the CIA in various top-secret “black sites.”

The CIA initially suspected Zubaydah of being a close associate of al-Qaeda, but after four years of torture, they concluded that he was not connected to the terrorist organisation. In 2006, he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The US government has claimed broad authority under the Authorization for Use of Military Force to justify Zubaydah’s continued detention (AUMF). Detainees can be kept indefinitely under the AUMF, which was enacted in the aftermath of 9/11. In his lawsuit, however, Zubaydah claims that this “law of war” rationale is in violation of international human rights rules. There is no lawful ground for Zubaydah’s continued detention, he has been refused recourse to constitutional protections against such unlawful detentions, and this violation of human rights is discriminatory, according to the lawsuit. Despite the fact that his case was heard by military tribunals, the US Supreme Court ruled that these proceedings do not constitute the same procedural right as a habeas corpus petition. He claims that the lack of proper review violates international human rights laws.

Zubaydah also says that “black sites,” underground detention centres reportedly used for “unfettered intelligence gathering” outside of the control of the courts, are in violation of human rights laws. According to him, these facilities “fall outside of all national and foreign legal frameworks relating to protections against arbitrary detention.” The US Supreme Court just heard oral arguments in a separate case concerning Zubaydah, in which the question is whether CIA records relating to his imprisonment at a black site in Poland can be classified as a state secret. While the UNWGAD has the power to investigate these allegations, it lacks the capacity to punish countries found to be violating human rights standards.

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