US Must Shut Down Guantanamo Prison UN Report Says

(AFP)–United Nations experts said the United States must shut down its Guantanamo Bay detention center without delay and release or try its inmates–a call immediately rejected by Washington.

The demand came in a report by five independent experts who act as monitors for the UN Human Rights Commission.

"The United States government should close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities without further delay," it said.

The 54-page document charged that US treatment of the more than 500 "war on terror" detainees held in legal limbo at the naval base in Cuba violated their rights to physical and mental health and in some cases amounted to torture.

The United States dismissed the report.

"These are dangerous terrorists that we’re talking about that are there," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "The military treats the detainees humanely."

The report said that Washington’s justification for holding the inmates was a distortion of international human rights treaties.

The United States "should either expeditiously bring all Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial," because this was a requirement under international law–"or release them without further delay," it said.

"Consideration should also be given to trying suspected terrorists before a competent international tribunal," it continued.

Washington had already rejected a draft version of the report leaked earlier this week.

US officials said its authors had never visited the prison–which mainly houses detainees captured in Afghanistan after the September 11–2001–attacks on the United States.

The United Nations experts began talks with the United States in 2002 on a possible visit and got a green light last year.

But they canceled their scheduled December visit after failing to secure US assurances that they could speak freely to prisoners–a standard procedure accepted by other governmen’s–the experts noted.

McClellan said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had "full access" to the prisoners–something US officials have said is sufficient. But the UN experts have said this is not enough because the ICRC keeps its findings confidential.

The experts based their report on US government answers to a questionnaire–plus interviews with former inmates in Britain–France–and Spain–and lawyers for some current detainees.

In the final version of the report released in Geneva–the UN experts accused Washington of trying to duck the ban on torture set out in international human rights treaties.

"Attempts by the United States administration to redefine ‘torture’ in the framework of the struggle against terrorism in order to allow certain interrogation techniques that would not be permitted under the internationally accepted definition of torture are of utmost concern," the report said.

"All special interrogation techniques authorized by the (US) Department of Defense should immediately be revoked," it added.

The report pointed to cases of "excessive violence" during transportation of detainees and force feeding of hunger strikers. These "must be assessed as amounting to torture," it said.

The report criticized the lack of an impartial investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment–and said impunity for the perpetrators was itself a violation of human rights law.

European Union lawmakers also urged the United States to close Guantanamo and judge the people it is holding before a "competent–independent–and impartial" court.

In a resolution passed overwhelmingly at the European Parliament in Strasbourg–France–the parliamentarians demanded that prisoners being held at Guantanamo be treated according to international law.

"Every prisoner should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and tried without delay in a fair and public hearing by a competent–independent–impartial tribunal," the resolution said.


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