UN Human Rights Experts Insist on Access to Guantanamo Detainees

November 2nd, 2005 - by admin

Andrew Selsky / Associated Press – 2005-11-02 08:49:25


UNITED NATIONS (November 1, 2005) — UN human rights investigators warned on Monday that they would snub a long-sought invitation to visit US detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay if they are barred access to terrorist suspects being held there.

The Pentagon on Thursday invited three of the experts to visit the detention facilities at the US military base in Cuba. But while the experts said they were happy the invitation finally came after more than three years of requests, they would not go if they cannot interview the prisoners.

“It makes no sense (to go),” Manfred Nowak, special investigator on torture and other cruel treatment, told a press conference at UN headquarters in New York. “You cannot do a fact-finding mission without talking to the detainees.”

The US Department of Defence declined to invite two experts with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights who also sought to go, drawing an angry reaction from one.

“I am informed that hunger strikers are being force-fed in a brutal manner bordering on the sadistic,” said Paul Hunt, special investigator on the right to health. “The best way for me to check the accuracy of these and other allegations . . . is to visit, see the conditions for myself, to talk privately with detainees.”

“I am extremely disappointed that the authorities continue to deny me access to Guantanamo Bay,” Hunt said in a statement.

Nowak said pointedly that even China, which has a poor record of treatment of prisoners, has agreed to an inspection of Chinese prisons, including interviews with detainees.

The Austrian investigator, however, refused to compare the willingness of the United States and China to hold their treatment of prisoners up to scrutiny.

Nowak and Leila Zerrougi, chairperson of the world body’s working group on arbitrary detention, said they and fellow investigator Asma Jahangir would visit Guantanamo on Dec. 6, but only if US authorities permit them to interview detainees in private.

They said the Pentagon’s letters of invitation specified they would not be granted access to detainees.

“They say they have nothing to hide,” Nowak said. “If they have nothing to hide, why should we not be able to speak with detainees?”

The investigators said they have also asked the United States and Iraq for access to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, but have received no response.

Also excluded from the invitation to Guantanamo was Leandro Despouy, an expert on the independence of judges and lawyers.

The Guantanamo detention centre has become a symbol of the controversy over detainee abuse by the US military. About two dozen prisoners are on hunger strikes to protest what they say is cruel and inhumane treatment.

US officials insist the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo are treated humanely. So far, only the International Committee of the Red Cross has been allowed to visit the detainees, who the US says are “enemy combatants” picked up in the US-led war on terror.

The Pentagon’s invitation was important “given the history of mistreatment at Guantanamo,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch.

But because the investigators cannot interview detainees, it is a “clearly inadequate offer” amounting to no more than a “show tour,” he said.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Rumsfeld Says UN Will Not Be Given Access to Detainees
Deutsche Presse-Agentur

WASHINGTON (November 1, 2005) — The US government will not permit U.N. human rights officials to interview detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if they accept the offer to visit the facility, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly has access to the captives in the war on terrorism and is permitted to talk to them, but the United States does not want to grant more openness to other organizations, he said.

‘We’re not inclined to add the number of people that would be given that extensive access,’ he told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon last week granted a long-standing UN demand to inspect the controversial detention centre to observe operations and interview US military personnel, but not have direct contact with the prisoners.

The three UN officials said they would not go unless they could talk to any of the more than 500 prisoners.

Manfred Nowak, the UN special envoy on torture, said their visit was limited to one day — December 6 — and criticized the United States for a maintaining a standard lower than China in terms of openness when it comes to Guantanamo.

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld said the hunger strike by a group of Guantanamo detainees was aimed at generating media attention.

‘I suppose that what they’re trying to do is to capture press attention, obviously, and they’ve succeeded,’ he said.

The detainees launched the strike in August and the number participating reached nearly 100, but the effort soon faded. About two dozen of them are being force fed, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

© dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.