15 February 2006

UN investigators say that US tortured prisoners

A new report was released by the United Nations outlines the findings of an 18-month study by UN human rights investigators regarding the treatment of prisoners being held by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.

The report alleges that we have indeed been torturing our detainees, and it calls for closure of Guantanamo.

The report doesn't tell us anything that we didn't already know. And Amnesty International has been calling for Gitmo's closure for some time now. But now the UN has taken an official position on this, and that means a lot.

On the other hand, it's probably meaningless to Bush, who has proven time and time again that international law means nothing to him.

From the Christian Science Monitor:
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 Guantanamo 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."
[Read more.]

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