Guantanamo Prisoner Covid-19 Issues Raised at United Nations – Geneva Hearing on 9 November 2020

The United Nations is poised to question the U.S. about how COVID-19 affects prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, which has had an undisclosed number of residents who contracted COVID-19. Prisoners, their lawyers, human rights groups, and U.S. Senators have expressed grave concern about Guantanamo prisoners’ potential exposure to the coronavirus, and questioned the adequacy and transparency of protocols to prevent and treat COVID-19 at the remote island facility holding 40 aging, vulnerable prisoners.

U.S. government officials are scheduled to appear before the UN Human Rights Council and are expected to testify that during the four-year Trump Administration, the U.S. has fully complied with all its human rights law obligations in the U.S., and elsewhere, including Guantanamo.

This testimony is part of a “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), which each country must periodically undergo. This is the 3rd UPR hearing for the U.S., following UPRs in 2010 and 2015. This U.S. UPR hearing is scheduled to begin Monday, 9 November 2020, in Geneva, Switzerland, at UN European Headquarters.

Law Students / Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Joint UPR “Shadow Report” to the Human Rights Council

Law students and faculty from three law schools in three countries, acting under a non-governmental organization (NGO) umbrella, submitted to the Human Rights Council a Joint UPR “Shadow Report” titled “Deprivation of Guantanamo Bay Prisoner Rights During COVID-19“.

The Report focuses on 6 specific human rights violations the U.S. has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate against Guantanamo prisoners: (1) arbitrary, prolonged detention; (2) torture; (3) denial of health rights; (4) interference with privacy and family life; (5) denial of a fair trial; and (6) denial of remedies for human rights violations. Furthermore, the Report explains how COVID-19 exacerbates these rights violations.

The law students and faculty who prepared the report are from these three law schools in these three countries: Indiana University McKinney School of Law (Indiana, U.S.A.); Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Law (Bangkok, Thailand); and Auckland University of Technology – AUT School of Law (Auckland, New Zealand). Students researched and drafted the report, in consultation with a U.S. Department of Defense / Pentagon lawyer who works on Guantanamo matters.

The Human Rights Council does not permit NGOs to speak on the floor of hearings during this week’s portion of the U.S. UPR. However, the NGOS are permitted to speak on the floor at the next round of the U.S. UPR, which is scheduled for February 2020. Students from this 3-country NGO Team will be nominated to deliver the student Team’s oral remarks on the floor of the United Nations UPR follow-up hearings on the U.S., in Geneva in February.

First United Nations hearing on U.S. since DJ Trump lost the election

This will be the first United Nations hearing concerning the U.S. since the presidential election held on 3 November 2020, and the first post-election opportunity for the outgoing Trump Administration to comment on whether and the extent to which U.S. has complied with its human rights obligations during the full four-year Trump Administration.

There was speculation that if the incumbent lost the U.S. Presidency, then this coming week’s UN hearings on the U.S. would be deferred until President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris assume office on 20 January 2020.

Issues covered at this UPR hearing

This UPR hearing will be broadly focused, highlighting a range of alleged human rights violations by the U.S. in many areas.

Topics for the hearing include Guantanamo Bay and torture. Additional topics include violence against women; human trafficking; systemic racial discrimination and racial profiling by police and other governmental authorities; general discrimination based on race, sex and religion; hate crimes; the death penalty; juvenile sentences without parole; gun violence; “indigenous issues”; homelessness; health care; migrants; the environment;  gender equality; privacy; sexual violence in the military; and migration policy and treatment of migrant children.

Hearing to be live-streamed

The hearings should be viewable on UN TV —

The for UPR UN Webcast Calendar for the week should be available here”

The first day of hearings, Monday, 9 November 2020, are scheduled from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Geneva, Switzerland time.

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