tv Discussion on Human Rights and Guantanamo Bay CSPAN November 10, 2015 8:00pm-8:43pm EST
coming up here on c-span 3, a report from the organization for security and cooperation in europe on the guantanamo bay prison. then a senate hearing on wildfires. after that a house foreign affairs committee on russia's involvement in the syrian civil war. later the confirmation hearings for undersecretary of state and u.s. representative through the international atomic energy agency. the organization for security and cooperation in europe today released a report calling on the u.s. to close the
military prison at guantanamo b bay. the report says the u.s. has violated the human rights of those detainees. >> good morning. i would like to welcome you all here to this event, the press conference to present the report on the human rights situation of guantanamo detainees that's been produced by the ofc office for democratic institutions and human rights. with us today to present the report, its findings and recommendations, are omer fisher, the deputy head of the human rights department, and lucille singler, who has been involved in the production of the report from the very
beginning. now i hope you had an opportunity to pick up the press release on the way in. and on your way out the report in hard copy will be available on the table that you used for the sign-in, and after the initial presentations here, there will be time for questions from the media if such questions there are. so with no further ado i'll hand the floor to omer fisher. >> thank you, tom, and good morning from me as well. thank you, everybody, for being here today at this presentation of a report on human rights situation at guantanamo detainees. as tom noted, we work for the office of odihr, for security and cooperation in europe, the osce, as you may know is an international governmental
organization. we work on security, democracy and human rights. we have 57 participating states in europe, the former soviet union and the united states is one of them. you may have heard more about the osce recently in connection with our work in ukraine, our office is, indeed, quite active there. but our job and mandate is to work on human rights to the extent that we can cover them across the 57 participating states and to assist participating states in meeting their oec commitments. one way to do this is to monitor the implementation of these commitments. over the past years, we have engaged with the u.s. authorities on the issue of guantanamo. we have followed developments there closely. we have also repeatedly in a call to close the detention facility. the report represented today is in some way the culmination of these efforts. we think it is coming at a
fairly good time when the discussions in the u.s. about the future of the detention facility are ongoing, perhaps gaining momentum. and the report covers a range of issues, the treatment of detainees, detention, proceedings before the military commissions as well as challenges related to the closure of guantanamo and to ensuring accountability for past human rights violations. i should say i mentioned engagement with the authorities. an engaging on this topic with the u.s. authorities we have had open discussions. we are very thankful for that. in some cases these were frank discussions. certainly we didn't agree on everything and certainly one thing we do regret is having been unable to visit the guantanamo detention facility and interview in private the detainees held there. this is standard practice.
whenever carrying out human rights monitoring at detention facilities, but we were not able to do this. so the report and the fact-finding are based on the many meetings and conversations we had with u.s. officials, with lawyers, with nongovernmental organizations, and five former guantanamo detainees. we did try to send through their lawyers written questions to current guantanamo detainees. we only received replies from one of them and these replies were entirely redacted by the authorities when we received them. our fact-finding did suffer some limitations, but these were not largely of our own making. i would also like to thank those who spent time with us to share the information they had for
this report. thank you for that report. lucille will talk more in detail about the content of the report. i would just like to highlight some of our key messages and recommendations. and the first and most obvious one is to close guantanamo. this is a recommendation we've made many times. it this is now for us an even stronger recommendation as it is backed by detailed piece of research on why guantanamo should be closed and detention of the detainees should end. in this regard we very much welcome the commitment made by the current administration to close the facility. there has been some slow progress, but there has been some progress in releasing the detainees, but 112 still remain there. we do want to see the facility clo closed, but we would not want to see guantanamo substituted by a solution that is not in full compliance with human rights.
we certainly would not like to see guantanamo detainees transferred somewhere else, u.s. soil or anywhere else for that matter, where they would be detained indefinitely without trial. what we are saying is detainees should either be charged or released. a certain number of guantanamo detainees may be charged with criminal offenses. in fact, some are already facing proceedings before the military commissions there. in our report we have identified a number of shortcomings in relation to proceedings before the military commissions, and we would like to see them fully addresses. we do acknowledge the system has improved, both as a result of changes in legislation, but also of litigation before the commissions, but we do think that the best way to address these shortcomings is to ensure the detainees receive a fair
trial. and those prosecuted before ordinary civilian courts which operate in accordance with international fair trial standards and i should add that these u.s. federal courts have a strong record of trying those suspected of having committed serious offenses, including acts of terrorism. the final point i want to make is on accountability. it is a major concern for us well known, well documented that individuals held at guantanamo were subjected to ill treatment, in some cases torture. this has been acknowledged by the president himself. we think it is crucial they are held accountable. we were given reassurances that all acts of torture or ill
treatment are investigated, but we think the efforts are still insufficient and this is especially the case under the interrogation program, and on this we will call for full transparency and full accountability for those acts. and we are also saying that those individuals that were affected should have access to full redress, compensation for any acts of torture. these were the key messages. with this, i would like to pass the floor to lucille for more details on the report's finding. thank you. >> thank you, omer. omer presented the methodology and the protocol in producing the report, and he also highlighted the main recommendations that are formulated in the report. i would like now to explain in
more detail some of our findings which have informed the recommendations also mentioned by omer. i will give you this morning an overview of those findings obviously they're explained and analyzed in the report itself. i would like first to also underline that our findings are based on osc commitments, international human rights standards, and international human law to the extent it's applicable to the context of guantanamo. the first recommendation mentioned by omer concerns our call for the closure of guantanamo and the end of indefinite detention. in that regard, let me highlight some facts. as of today 112 detainees remain at guantanamo and 102 are detained without charge and for a number of them they are kept in guantanamo for more than 13 years. >> how many? >> 102.
a number of guantanamo detainees are also considered to be too dangerous to be released, but in the meantime no charges have been brought against them. in addition you have also 53 detainees at guantanamo that have been cleared for transfer or release. this means the u.s. authority consider that these individuals no longer pose a threat to u.s. national security. the majority of those 53 detainees have been cleared for more than five years, yet they remain in indefinite detention and they're uncertain as to when they will be released. such figures, such facts, underline that the vast majority of detainees are being kept in guantanamo without charges against them, and this is
contrary to international standards prohibiting their detention and the detention of individuals without trial. regarding the transfer of the detainees from guantanamo the report acknowledges the increased pace of transfers at the end of 2014 and also this year. transfers took place and the administration -- the u.s. administration as indicated working towards additional transfers out of guantanamo by the end of the year. we welcome these efforts in the report, but we also call for further increased efforts in transferring detainees out of guantanamo. the current pace of transfer remain insufficient to significantly progress towards the closure of the detention facility.
regarding transfer the report also underscores the obligation of the united states to ensure that detainees are not transferred to country where they may be at risk of torture or ill treatment. the u.s. has indeed take actions in that regard and in some cases as we said of detainees in third countries rather than in their own country because they could have faced risk of torture or persecution. however, our findings indicate that the united states still relies heavily on diplomatic assurances when concluding transfers and also in some cases forcibly transfer detainees to states allegedly practicing torture and ill treatment. and this is in contradiction of the united states obligations
and the international law and the osc commitments. as mentioned by omer, we call for the swift closure of guantanamo. the indefinite di -- detention of individuals kept in the facility woud being charged should end, and this means those detainees who have been charged should be for trial standards and this is the second area of the finding that i would like to mentio
mention. we assess the fairness before the military commission. omar mentioned a number of improvements in the legislation and also in litigation but we still have identified in the report a number of shortcomings regarding the proceedings before the military commission. the military commission, first of all, remain and that presents a number of impartiality. in addition a number of high official statements under both the previous and current u.s. administration have implied the guilt of the defendants of independence, which is contrary to the presumption of independence. moreover, we recognize the complexity of the cases before the military commission, but it is still unclear when the trial phases of those cases will start. we also highlight in the report that the proceedings before the military commissions lack publicity due to the removed
location of the courtroom and we underscore in their report the casting of the proceedings in various locations in the u.s. is not sufficient to ensure the public character of the proceedings as it is understood under international law. another area of concern that we highlight in the report are the alleged violations of the confidentiality of the relationship between attorneys and their clients. there have been limitations placed on lawyer's ability to meet frequently with their clients, and there have been also alleged violations of the defendants' rights to privately and confidentially communicate with their counsel. another finding in the report that i highlight, the defense
is not provided with the same resources as the prosecution when it comes to the proceedings before the military commission. and this is one hurdle regarding the preparation of the defense. another one is also the classification and overclassification of information that remain problematic in the proceedings before the military commissions despite some progress. the classification prevents the disclosure of evidence to the defense and also the disclosure of information regarding allegations of torture made by the detainees that are faced proceedings before the military commissions. finally we also -- i mean, it's more than allegations. we also know that a number of the detainees who are now facing proceedings before the military
commissions have been ill treated and tortured. not as strict as required still under international law. it is still possible following a judge's decision. it's still possible to have evidence obtained through torture or treatment add admissible in the proceedings. a 40-second delay in the broadcasting of the proceedings is another area of concern related to the prohibition of torture because this 40-second delay may have been used to withhold information in the mistreatment of detainees. so based on these findings and as mentioned by omer, our conclusion is that proceedings before the military commissions do not meet the requirement of fair trial standards and that's also why the report will
command that individuals who are charged be brought before the ordinary courts operating with fair trial standards. finally the third area of findings relates to the prohibition of torture and accountability. the report identifies a number of abusive conditions of detention and interrogation practices such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, that took place under the previous administration at guantanamo and under the cia rendition program and these practices have amounted to ill treatment or torture. when it comes to the current conditions of detention, our findings also point out concerns regarding the management of hunger strikes, for instance, at guantanamo. we underline in the report that
the decision to force feed mentally competent detainees is contrary to international standards and based on information that we have gathered, we also consider that the process of force feeding as it is currently done at guantanamo amounts to ill treatment and potentially to torture. allegations of torture at guantanamo and under the cia rendition program are serious and u.s. high officials, including the president, have acknowledged the use of torture in the guantanamo context. yet impunity continues for human rights violations committed in the cia rendition program and in the detention and treatment of detainees at guantanamo. investigations have been conducted by the u.s. authorities. however, our report highlights that the investigation into the abuses at guantanamo were not
impartial, thorough, or effective. regarding the rendition program no u.s. official has ever been prosecuted for their involvement in the program and we underline in the report that the release of the executive summary findings and the conclusions of the senate select committee recommendations on the cia rendition program offers an opportunity into opening a new investigation into the rendition program. finally, as mentioned by omer, there is an obligation for the united states also to provide victims with redress. cases of torture and human rights violations happen at guantanamo but no detainee has received redress. no court has considered a lawsuit seeking redress on the
meri merits, and it seems the right to redress is not even part of the debate which we regret also in the report. so those were the main findings that are contained in the report. as i said, the report also provides further details and analyzes in that regard. i will be happy to answer potential questions. thank you. >> yes. thank you, lucille. as lucille mentioned and myself earlier, we do have time today for questions from the media or from anyone on the floor, so if you could please just raise your hand if you have something to ask, we'll have a microphone brought over. and before you ask your question, could you please just give your name and the media outlet for which you work for. >> barry, a freelance journalist. how hard did you try to
interview, meet the detainees in person? can you talk through what the obama administration's response was why you couldn't have direct access to? >> thanks. we didjkep try. as we normally do, we would indicate our intention or desire to interview detainees. we do that officially through official communication and i should say we did learn that it was not possible but we didn't really get a detailed explanation as to the reasons why that was not possible. so that's the answer i can give you. we were not provided a detailed explanation as to why we could not interview the detainees. >> we can just work our way
across the aisle. >> hi, i'm andreas ross with a german newspaper. this is going to be speculative to a certain extent but maybe not so much that you can't answer the question at all. we're all waiting for more concrete proposals of the administration, how it wants to proceed to close guantanamo, and even though there's an amount of domestic politics issues you probably won't want to go into based on your discussions with that administration officials what kind of hope do you see for a short-term solution that is at least going to be better than what you see? and to what extent do you think that what you mentioned in the beginning, the only real option that's being debated here really just means moving guantanamo with the whole bunch of legal issues to a different place, for example, in colorado or
elsewhere? could you give us some take on what at least considered some improvement from your point of view, if -- even if not a perfect solution? >> yes, indeed, we are very much interested in seeing the outcome of this discussion is. we also know a plan on the closure of guantanamo has been promised and may even be presented very, very soon. and that is, in itself, what we are very much welcoming, what we know is a stated commitment to close the facility and to close guantanamo, but the main point remains what i mentioned earlier. this is about moving detainees from one indefinite detention setting to another indefinite
detention setting somewhere else. that will not be satisfactory. as to whether that would constitute an improvement, it's difficult to say, indeed, it will also depend on the facility, on the type of context it potentially could have with lawyers or with others anywhere else other than in guantanamo. guantanamo presents certain issues and challenges and problems because of the very sheer location and distance. but i wouldn't focus so much on that. i would say it is indefinite detention no matter what, whether in guantanamo or anywhere else. i'm not sure if you have anything else. >> no. >> if i quickly may follow up, did you receive any indication from administration officials that they also want to change the part -- sorry, i'm at a loss of words, the move to the criminal justice system, the ordinary court system here or dramatically expand the military commission system, did you receive any indications to that?
>> we did discuss this. as i said, that's our recommendation, but i guess that's a question that's better placed to the officials in the administration. >> i work for six german newspapers. i actually have two quick questions. one you mentioned incidents like waterboarding and sleep deprivation you say happened at guantanamo. this is the first time i hear that waterboarding happened at guantanamo. maybe i missed something in all my talks with the military and with lawyers. the consensus was always that only happened in other areas. is that true? >> sorry maybe if i wasn't clear. that did happen indeed under the cia rendition program. >> in guantanamo or in other places? >> we covered mainly developments related to the cia rendition program to the extent
they were linked to detainees that were gone through this program to guantanamo. >> i'm just not sure because many of the -- >> in our findings, we're not specifying that happened in those black sites at guantanamo. >> so this could refer to people in camp seven who were waterboarded in europe or elsewhere and then brought to guantanamo, for example? it doesn't necessarily imply it happened on the island? >> indeed. >> and the second question is a follow-up on what brian just asked. the reason you can't interview detainees, supposedly the geneva conventions. did they say nothing at all? >> again, they really didn't provide an explanation. in our case, we didn't get an explanation as to why we couldn't interview the
detainees. >> just one question, are you expecting any kind of opposition within the political ranks of the united states in terms of your report, and what kind of authorities have you managed to speak with regarding your report? what level, i would say? >> well, we did speak with various departments and agencies involved, including the departments of defense, department of justice. i would say the level was pretty high in terms of the interlocutors we had access to, and we're grateful for the openness we had with the uso
authorities on guantanamo. political debate in the u.s. i think our hope is that we, of course, know and understand that the views are very different across a political spectrum and the report will be able to contribute somehow to those discussions in a way that would promote human rights which is the main aim for us. >> thank you. >> sputnik news. this has been going on for, as you said, since the previous administration and you are not able to get access to these sites, to these detainees. you referred to limitations in the senate intelligence report on the cia rendition. what makes you confident this report exposing the alleged abuses which u.s. officials,
including those lawmakers who are currently opposing the transfer of detainees into the united states opposing the closure of gitmo, what makes you so confident that this is going to change perceptions or perhaps catalyze some sort of international action? >> when it comes to our hopes or how much we think the report is going to be influencing policies, i think indeed many organizations have already provideds their views in the past on the guantanamo situation. the problem is still here. there's been many years now
talks about guantanamo, the impacts of guantanamo, and still discussion about closing guantanamo. the report will be used, we hope, inside the u.s. may be used in the political discussions with various political activists. that as i mentioned may have different views of guantanamo but hope it can be used as a tool in those discussions to promote human rights. we think it may be of use to local civil society organizations in their own advocacy and efforts to bring about the closure of guantanamo and human rights compliance solution to that. the osc is an international organization and the purpose of our reports is also to bring sort of the international dimension of these discussions in the osc forum. so we do have our own sort of
bodies and political forum and hope a report like this will stimulate discussions at that level. >> and your u.s. colleagues in the osc, what has been the response from them? this report? >> just for clarification are you talking about the u.s. state department? is that the u.s. delegation? >> if that's what -- if that's who you -- >> well, i was also referring to 24 -- this report may also be used by other states in the osc. when it comes to the response we receive from our u.s. counterparts, as i said, we had open and frank discussions. we presented our recommendations. we could do that also yesterday at the state department and we do hope there will be continued work to ensure that this report and the recommendations are going to be implemented.
>> if we can go to you and then i think we have time for two or three more questions. >> hi, i'm from the finnish newspaper. if guantanamo is closed by mr. obama's executive order, how happy would that make you? i mean, how would you define that decision? >> we have been calling for the closure of guantanamo. leaving aside the question as to how guantanamo is going to be closed, we don't enter into discussion about how that is going to happen, whether executive order or otherwise. the important thing is the end result. closing guantanamo would make us happy but the caveat that i mentioned before, that we would not want to see the detainees transferred to another indefinite detention setting.
>> i just wanted to go back to something you said about you sent one questionnaire to one prisoner who -- and you got it partly -- heavily redacted. what were you asking him and what percentage of it was redacted and can you say anything about what was the content of this questionnaire? >> we sent questions to some detainees, as omer mentioned. those questions were related to their conditions of detention and their conditions also of transfer to guantanamo. and as omer also mentioned, we received one reply which was fully redacted with the exception of the title of the
organization, but yeah, it was 100% redacted. the letter is part of the report as an annex, so you will also have the opportunity to look at it. >> public television, slovakia. our country has adopted nine of the detainees in the last or recent three years. under which extent do you monitor the quality of their life and the status and living conditions of those who were transferred to third countries? >> the report does look into resettlement to third countries. the report is primarily focused on the united states, but we do also cover transfers to third countries. we haven't, however, in the report covered the situation of
those detainees once they've been transferred to third countries. we do note also in the report a number of participating states have welcomed detainees and we also call for other participating states within the osc to engage with the united states also to welcome additional detainees. >> i think we have time for one more question today if there is one. sure. [ inaudible ]
>> the development from our point of view, in short with what i mentioned before, it's not the -- how can i say -- it's not the only nithing that needso happen or, well, it should happen, but it should be accompanied by a number of other things to make sure that all the human rights we see emerge in guantanamo are addressed, accountability, reparation including compensation, et cetera. a number of things need to happen but, of course, closing guantanamo is a key one. >> i would like to thank you, again, for being here with us this morning, for this presentation. as i mentioned on your way out on the table where you signed the registration table you'll be able to find full copies of the report. aside from that, i wish you a great day. >> thank you.
wednesday morning on our companion network cspan, our congressional profiles of two new members of congress. massachusetts democratic seth mo mollton and steve russell. here's a brief preview. >> well, there are a few lessons that i learned in iraq and in the war. one of which was the value of leadership. it's amazing the impact that even some of the youngest people in our country can have on the lives of others if you're willing to stand up and lead. and so, for example, when i made the difficult determination that the best way to prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon was to support the deal, not that it's a great daeal, but after i thought it was the best position we could be in, a lot of people advised me to step
back. this is politically dangerous. this is a very contentious issue. i remember i wasn't elected to sit back and take the politically easy course. i was elected to lead. i got out in and explained why it was important. i think i was the only politician in massachusetts to hold up forums in august to talk to constituents and to justify my decision and answer their concerns. so that's something. i also think that there's real value in just having the courage to come out and say what you believe, and i think that we'd be a better country and a stronger congress if we had more people just explain the truth to the american public even when they know it might be unpopular back home. >> in battle, i think your faith plays a tremendous role. i've had to do some terrible
things. processing that has been a long journey. as an infantryman, you're not dealing with electronics or on some computer or some machine. you're on the front lines. you're carrying ammunition, water, the basic implements. with those organizations, they are the ones that are designed to go find the enemy, not just react to the enemy, but to go find them. and in my excursions we certainly found a lot of different enemies. and i've had to watch friends get hit, and i've lost some soldiers. very, very tough to deal with. i've had to take human life and fight my way out of ambushes. those experiences are -- they stay with you your entire life, but they're not insurmountable.
i try to relay to people if you were in a horrible car wreck or in some devastating storm, it would impact your life, but it doesn't mean you don't function. that's the way my faith has helped me to process my battle experiences. >> you can see both our congressional freshman profiles with congressman seth molton and steve russell on wednesday. wednesday is veterans day. live on c-span president obama lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at arlington national cemetery. c-span has the best access to congress. watch live coverage of the house on c-span and the senate on c-span 2. watch us online or on your phone at