European Democratic Lawyers (EDL) statement on Guantanamo Bay and other detention centres

The European Democratic Lawyers (E.D.L.) is an association of labor unions and lawyers associations of six European countries. Among our statutory aims is the protection of the respect of the human rights and particularly of the right of defense.

On 18 June 2004, in Madrid, about 50 lawyers of our association (from Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Italy) demonstrated in their robes in front of the Embassy of the United States and the President of the EDL managed to hand over a document to an official of the Embassy , where we clearly expressed our deep concern about the continuous violation of the rights of the prisoners jailed in prisons, bases and other detention centers in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly, described as "enemy combatants" and who remain deprived of all the fundamental rights recognised in International Treaties.

The document included the following: :

“… We are alarmed and indignant about the treatment received by the prisoners of war (POW) in several places of the world, specially at the Base of Guantánamo after the facts of the 11 September 2001 and up to now and by the cruel practices of bad treatments and tortures that have taken place, among others, in the Iraqian jail of Abu Ghraib, on the part of the North American military towards the prisoners, militaries or civilians, that had already been denounced by Amnesty International and by the International Red Cross since the middle of 2003 and that have recently been recognised, although diminished, in face of the appearance of incontestable graphical testimonies, by your own Government.

We cannot but, at least, mention the last report of Amnesty International, published the end of May of this year, in which accusations of extra judicial executions of Iraqian civilians, arbitrary detentions and generalized mistreat of the prisoners of Iraq, Guantánamo and Afghanistan have been gathered. Apparently, at least 37 prisoners passed away in prisons by violent causes and not sufficiently clarified and information of the Red Cross reveals that, at least 23 prisoners were shot.

The international laws and other norms establish that any arrested or detained person would have to receive immediate information on her rights and the reasons for the detention, including the right to count on the assistance of a lawyer; the right to communicate and to receive visits, the right to inform her family of the detention and place of imprisonment and the right of the foreigners to contact with their embassy or some international organisation. These rights are contained, Inter alia, in article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), signed in New York on the 19 December 1966 and in the Body of Principles for the Protection of All People Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by consensus by the United Nations General Assembly 1988.

These rights are important safeguards against arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which is a fundamental human right. Freedom from arbitrary arrest or unlawful detention includes the right to be brought promptly before a judicial authority; the right to review of detention within a reasonable time or to release; and the right to challenge detention before a competent authority:

Article 9(1) of the ICCPR stipulates that:

"1. Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his freedom, except for the causes fixed by law and according to the procedure the law establishes".

To ensure freedom from arbitrary detention, Article 9(4) further provides that anyone:

"who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court in order that the court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful."

The Human Rights Committee has stated that Article 9(1) i


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