U.N. Group Urges Release of Suspected 9/11 Plotter From ‘Illegal’ Guantánamo Bay Detention

A Pakistani national held at Guantánamo Bay accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks should be released, as his detention is illegal and breaches human rights law, a United Nations body has said.

Ammar al-Baluchi, who has been held in the U.S. detention center in Cuba since 2006, is accused of being one of the co-conspirators of the September 11, 2001, attack in New York City. He is also the nephew of the suspected mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions says there is no legal basis for Baluchi being held in Guantánamo and is urging his release.

According to the written opinion of five independent experts, Balachi has been denied his rights to be presumed innocent before proven guilty because of his nationality and religion.

11_14_Guantanamo_Bay A group of detainees kneels during an early morning Islamic prayer in their camp at the U.S. military prison for 'enemy combatants' on October 28, 2009 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. John Moore/Getty

The group also claimed Baluchi has been “brutally tortured” in the facility and continues to be subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the Government” while awaiting trial.

“Mr. al Baluchi has been subject to prolonged detention on discriminatory grounds and has not been afforded equality of arms in terms of having adequate facilities for the preparation of his defence under the same conditions as the prosecution,” the U.N Working Group said in a statement.

“Mr. al Baluchi has been deprived of due process and the fair trial guarantees that would ordinarily apply within the judicial system of the United States.

“This act of discrimination on the basis of his status as a foreign national and his religion has denied Mr. al Baluchi equality before the law.”

In total, the group claims that Baluchi’s detention breaks at least 13 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Working Group also noted that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

10_12_Guantanamo_Bay People walk past a guard tower outside the U.S. military's prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on January 26, 2017. Thomas Watkins/AFP/Getty

U.S. military spokeswoman Navy Commander Sarah Higgins dismissed the findings, reiterating the government has a right to detain the suspect. She told Reuters: “The U.S. government has the legal authority to detain al-Baluchi. Until we have time to analyze the basis of their claim, we will delay further comment.”

Elsewhere, the group also claims that the torture suffered by Baluchi inspired similar scenes that appeared in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty.

The group says the opening 25 minutes of the film feature a character named “Ammar” being beaten, water boarded and kept awake for 96 consecutive hours, all techniques allegedly used against Baluchi. Reports have claimed that the CIA shared details of torture conducted at the agency's “black sites” with the makers of the movie to make the scenes appear authentic.

The Working Group has frequently called the closure of Guantánamo Bay a “top priority” for the U.S. government. President Donald Trump has stated that he wants upgrade the center so he can “load it up with some bad dudes.”