[News] UN: Close down Guantanamo prison

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 16 08:57:58 EST 2006

UN: Close down Guantanamo prison
Thursday 16 February 2006 12:18 PM GMT

The US should bring all prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay to an 
independent trial or release them, the United Nations has said in a report.

The 54-page report, summarising an investigation by five UN experts, 
on Thursday called on the US government "to close down the Guantanamo 
Bay detention centre and to refrain from any practice amounting to 
torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

But the US ambassador to UN offices in Geneva, Kevin Moley, responded 
that the investigation had taken little account of evidence provided 
by the United States, and that the five UN experts rejected an 
invitation to visit Guantanamo.

In a response that was included at the end of the report, Moley said: 
"It is particularly unfortunate that the special rapporteurs rejected 
the invitation and that their unedited report does not reflect the 
direct, personal knowledge that this visit would have provided."

A preliminary version of the report was leaked earlier this week 
before it included the US comment.

The US is currently holding about 490 men at the US military 
detention centre on the southeastern tip of Cuba.

The detainees are accused of having links to Afghanistan's ousted 
Taliban regime or al-Qaida, though only a handful have been charged 
since the mission opened in January 2001.

The five UN experts who authored the report had sought invitations 
from the US to visit Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Three were invited 
last year, but refused in November after being told they could not 
interview detainees.

Only the International Committee of the Red Cross has been allowed to 
visit Guantanamo's detainees, but the organisation keeps its findings 
confidential, reporting them solely to the detaining power.

Some reports have been leaked by what the organisation calls third parties.

The UN report's findings, which were being made public, were based on 
interviews with former detainees, public documents, media reports, 
lawyers and a questionnaire filled out by the US government.

The treatment of detainees during transport and the use of violence 
when they resisted amounted to torture, the UN report said.

Although the investigators did not visit Guantanamo, they said 
photographic evidence - corroborated by testimony of former prisoners 
- showed that detainees were shackled, chained, hooded and forced to 
wear earphones and goggles.

They said prisoners were beaten, stripped and force shaved if they resisted.

The report said: "Such treatment amounts to torture, as it inflicts 
severe pain or suffering on the victims for the purpose of 
intimidation and/or punishment."

Some of the interrogation techniques used at the detention facility 
itself - particularly the use of dogs, exposure to extreme 
temperatures, sleep deprivation for several consecutive days and 
prolonged isolation - caused extreme suffering, the report said.

UN report

The simultaneous use of such methods was "even more likely to amount 
to torture," it said.

It also concluded that the particular status of Guantanamo Bay under 
the international lease agreement between the US and Cuba did not 
limit Washington's obligations under international human rights law 
toward those detained there.

Many of the allegations have been made before, but the document 
represented the first inquiry launched by the 53-nation UN Human 
Rights Commission, the global body's top rights watchdog.

The group of UN investigators included Leila Zerrougui, an expert on 
arbitrary detention; Leandro Despouy, expert on judicial 
independence; Manfred Nowak, expert on torture; Asma Jahangir, an 
expert on freedom of religion; and Paul Hunt, expert on physical and 
mental health.

The five were appointed by the commission to the three-year project. 
They worked independently, with expenses covered but received no 
payment from the UN.

The five come from Argentina, Austria, New Zealand, Algeria and Pakistan.

The US, which is a member of the commission, has criticised the body 
itself for including members from countries with poor human rights records.


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