UN calls for Guantanamo shutdown

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Flag of the United Nations

In a 40-page report released today, the United Nations special envoys on torture reported their findings regarding the United States detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. The report concludes that certain procedures practised at the facility, and during transport to it, constitute torture. Moreover the report states that "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 goes on to state that "the interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense, particularly if used simultaneously, amount to degrading treatment in violation of article 7 of ICCPR and article 16 of the Convention against Torture."

The report recommends that the United States bring the detainees to trial "in accordance with criminal procedure" or "release them without further delay", and that "The United States Government should close the Guantánamo Bay detention facilities without further delay." To avoid further practices amounting to "torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, discrimination on the basis of religion, and violations of the rights to health and freedom of religion" the report recommends that "In particular, all special interrogation techniques authorized by the Department of Defense should immediately be revoked."

In response to the report, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said that the facility housed "dangerous terrorists". US officials have dismissed most of the claims as "largely without merit" and pointed out that the authors of the report never visited Guantanamo Bay, despite an invitation issued to three of the five investigators in November.

In an interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on torture and coauthor of the report Manfred Nowak said that it was the "sole responsibility of the United States that we could not visit Guantanamo". He adds that the United States explicitly barred the UN inspectors from talking to detainees, without which proper investigations are impossible. He pointed out that the need for interviews with prisoners, in order for considering investigations to be comprehensive, "is also the position of the United States when it concerns other countries, like China".