U.N. denied access to Guantanamo inmates

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Today, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld renewed his denial to grant a United Nations commission access to inmates at the Guantánamo Bay detention center. Last week the United States offered to let United Nations representatives visit the detention center, but they refused to let United Nations representatives visit the entire detention facility or interview detainees.

The United Nation's Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, told reporters on Monday that even China does not impose such conditions for United Nations visit of detention centers and that the United Nations could not accept an offer to visit the United States facility under conditions that are different from other nations. Nowak did show willingness to compromise on other controversial questions as the duration of the visit, which is limited to one day, and which individual United Nations representatives would be involved in the visit.

The United States has voiced objections to two of the proposed team of five United Nations inspectors: Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Paul Hunt in particular has expressed strong suspicion of torture having occurred in Guantánamo. Those approved include Nowak from Austria in position as Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Asma Jahangir from Pakistan as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, and Leila Zerrougui from Algeria as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention.

The United Nations has been requesting access to the naval base for four years. The United States has explained that the restrictions placed on the UN visit are due to the nature of the ongoing War on Terrorism.