Draft UN report: Close Guoantلnam
UN investigators say US treatment of prisoners violates international law and in some cases constitutes torture.
By Tom Regan csmonitor.com
A confidential report of an 18-month investigation by five United Nations human rights investigators alleges that the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners being held in military detention centers in Guantلnamo Bay, Cuba, violates international law and in some cases may constitute a form of torture.
The Washington Post reports that the investigation includes interviews with former US prisoners in France, Spain, and Britain, as well as the lawyers and relatives of detainees.
The investigators did not visit the base itself, saying that the Defense Department, which invited only three of the five members of the group to visit the facility last November, refused to allow them to speak to detainees privately. The US government allows only the Red Cross to have direct access to prisoners. The Red Cross does not write reports on the way the prisoners are being treated.
The confidential draft, which was obtained by The Washington Post, notes that two of the UN investigators concluded that the "legal regime applied to these detainees seriously undermines the rule of law and a number of fundamental universally recognized human rights, which are the essence of democratic societies."
The report cites several practices – including sleep deprivation, lengthy solitary confinement and the use of other harsh US-authorized interrogation techniques – that it claims violate international conventions barring cruel or inhumane treatment. It also charges that detainees' rights to religion and health were violated.
The Guardian reports that the investigators also dispute the US government's legal justification for the prison, saying that there has been "insufficient legal process to decide whether detainees continued to pose a threat to the US." Lead investigator Manfred Nowak said the actual report will be released Wednesday.
Reuters writes that the investigators called for the US to shut down the prison "without further delay," and that all the detainees held there should be bought to the US for trial, or let go.
The BBC reports that the White House responded immediately to the draft document. President Bush brought up the report with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who said he had not seen it yet. And the US State Department criticized the report as "hearsay."
"Just because they decided not to take up the US government on the offer to go to Guantanamo Bay does not automatically give [them] the right to publish a report that is merely hearsay and not based on fact," spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Fox News reports that the Pentagon also dismissed the investigators' findings.
The Scotsman writes that the US said the report's most significant flaw was that it judged the treatment of the detainees according to peacetime human rights laws. The US says it is at war with terrorists, and so the laws of war must be used to judge the situation. But the investigators disagreed with this position.
The draft report, which will be presented to the 53-nation UN Human Rights Commission, dismissed the US claim that the war on terror constituted an armed conflict. It also said the prisoners had a right to challenge their detention, and that right was being violated. "In the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the US executive operates as judge, as prosecutor, and as defence counsel," the report said.