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UN says US violating international law, calls for closure of Guantanamo

Bob Strong / Reuters file

A prisoner reads a newspaper in a communal cell block at Camp VI at Guantanamo Bay prison. The UN on Friday called on the US to close the prison, accusing the country of violating international law.

GENEVA -- The UN human rights chief called on the United States on Friday to close down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, saying the indefinite imprisonment of many detainees without charge or trial violated international law.

Navi Pillay said the hunger strike being staged by some inmates at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in southeastern Cuba was a "desperate act" but "scarcely surprising."

"We must be clear about this: The United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold," the UN high commissioner for human rights said in a statement.

About half of the 166 detainees there have been cleared for transfer either to home countries or third countries for resettlement, Pillay said. "As a first step, those who have been cleared for release must be released," she said.

"Others reportedly have been designated for further indefinite detention. Some of them have been festering in this detention center for more than a decade," she said.

Of the 166 detainees, only nine have been charged with or convicted of crimes.

Forty inmates are currently staging a hunger strike to protest against their indefinite detention, according to a U.S. military spokesman at Guantanamo. Some have lost so much weight that they are being force-fed liquid nutrients.