UN: Guantanamo Bay should be closed

Friday, May 19, 2006

File image of detainees upon arrival at Camp X-Ray, January 2002

The United Nations Committee against Torture told the United States today that the US should close its detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as disclose the existence of any secret prisons it operates.

The committee, made up of 10 independent experts has urged the Bush administration to put a stop to the use of torture or cruel treatment during the interrogation of terror suspects.

In an 11-page report, the committee said that the US should not detain anyone in a secret facility under its control. The committee also said that the US should disclose and investigate any such facilities. It is alleged that the US has a number of secret prisons where suspects are transported to and questioned using techniques that violate international human rights conventions.

Earlier this month, the US sent 30 officials to a torture committee hearing in Geneva. The delegation was criticized for failing to comment on questions relating to America's alleged secret prisons.

The committee ruled that there was evidence that US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan had violated the rights of some detainees. The committee said that some of the US' techniques had resulted in the deaths of prisoners during the interrogation process. The committee further claimed that "vague" guidelines had led to abuse of detainees.

According to the Associated Press, John B. Bellinger III, a State Department legal advisor and participant during the hearings at Geneva, said of the recommendation to close the base that, "one, seems to be beyond their mandate; two, legally wrong to say that the existence of Guantanamo is a per se violation of the convention; and, three, a not very practical recommendation given that they say that it ought to be closed but that individuals can't be sent back to a large number of countries."

President Bush said previously on ARD German television that he wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp. According to White House spokesman Tony Snow, the President is waiting for the US Supreme Court to decide on the issue of whether military tribunals or civilian courts would try the detainees.