Pressure on US to close Guantanamo camp

17 February 2006 16:03 The United States has received growing pressure to shut down the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay after a UN report on the camp recommended that it be closed.

The former Irish President and UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has said it is in America's own interests to act on the findings of the report.

She said the issue was a litmus test of whether or not there was an effective international system of human rights law.

Earlier, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said that the United States should close the detention camp as soon as possible.

However, Mr Annan said he did not agree with all parts of a report published yesterday by UN human rights monitors.

The report, which has been rejected by the White House, said the detention camp in Cuba should be closed and that prisoners there had been abused.

The 54-page document pointed to cases of 'excessive violence' during transportation of detainees and force-feeding of hunger strikers.

The investigators also said the US military acted as judge, prosecutor and defence in the special trials at the base.

It called on US authorities to bring all detainees to trial under international law or release them without further delay.

US authorities criticised UN monitors for writing the report without having been to the facility.

The experts cancelled a planned visit to the camp last year because the US refused to give them free access to prisoners.

White House spokesperson, Scott McClellan said al-Qaeda detainees were 'trained to provide false information', including allegations of torture.

U.S. should close Guantanamo prison: Annan

February 17, 2006


NEW YORK -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said the United States should close the prison at Guantanamo Bay for terror suspects as soon as possible, backing a key conclusion of a U.N.-appointed independent panel.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan rejected the call to shut the camp, saying the military treats all detainees humanely and ''these are dangerous terrorists that we're talking about.''

The panel's report, released Thursday in Geneva, said the United States must close the detention facility ''without further delay'' because it is effectively a torture camp where prisoners have no access to justice.

Annan told reporters he didn't necessarily agree with everything in the report, but he did support its opposition to people being held ''in perpetuity'' without being charged and prosecuted in a public court. This is ''something that is common under every legal system,'' he said.

''I think sooner or later there will be a need to close the Guantanamo [camp], and I think it will be up to the government to decide, and hopefully to do it as soon as is possible,'' the secretary-general told reporters.

The 54-page report summarizing a probe by five U.N. experts accused the United States of practices that ''amount to torture'' and demanded detainees be allowed a fair trial or be freed. The panel, which had sought access to Guantanamo Bay since 2002, refused a U.S. offer for three experts to visit the camp in November after being told they could not interview detainees.

Annan said the report by a U.N.-appointed independent panel was not a U.N. report but one by individual experts. ''So we should see it in that light,'' he said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report will be presented to the U.N. Commission of Human Rights, which appointed the panel, when it convenes on March 13 in Geneva.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator for torture who was a panel expert, told the Associated Press in Geneva that Guantanamo detainees ''should be released or brought before an independent court.''

''That should not be done in Guantanamo Bay, but before ordinary U.S. courts, or courts in their countries of origin or perhaps an international tribunal,'' he said. AP

U.S. refuses to close Guantanamo camp

Fri, February 17, 2006

A UN report denounces the detention and trials of terrorist suspects.


WASHINGTON -- The White House yesterday rejected a scathing United Nations report that says the United States should shut down its prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and either release or put on trial all the detainees.

Only a handful have so far appeared before military tribunals, including Omar Khadr, the only Canadian held there.

The 54-page report blasts the "arbitrary detention" of about 500 suspected terrorists, while taking aim at the special military tribunal system, saying the U.S. government "operates as judge, prosecutor and defence counsel."

Secretary General Kofi Annan backed the report, saying Washington should close the prison as soon as possible.

"I think sooner or later there will be a need to close the Guantanamo (camp) and I think it will be up to the government to decide and hopefully to do it as soon as is possible," Annan said.

But White House spokesperson Scott McClellan dismissed the report -- prepared by five human rights experts over 18 months -- as a "rehash" of allegations from lawyers for some of the detainees.

"We know that these are dangerous terrorists. They are trained to provide false information."

A lawyer for Khadr, 19, said the report provides an opportunity for Canada to take a stand.

"My hope is that Canada will now feel it can join the rest of the international community in speaking out to condemn Guantanamo and the military tribunals," Muneer Ahmad said.

"The White House has backed itself into a corner. What's more interesting to me is what Canada now does. This strengthens their hand in protecting one of their own citizens."

McClellan was also critical of the fact the experts didn't visit Guantanamo. They refused an invitation after they were told they couldn't talk to detainees.

"The United Nations should be making serious investigations across the world . . . This was not one of them. It's a discredit to the UN when a team like this goes about rushing to report something when they haven't even looked into the facts. All they have done is look at the allegations."

The UN report's findings were based on interviews, public documents, media reports, lawyers and a questionnaire filled out by the U.S. government. The investigators were not paid, although their expenses were covered.

USA: Amnesty welcomes UN call to close Guantnamo Bay but it is tip of iceberg Press release, 02/16/2006

Amnesty International welcomes todays United Nations report calling for the closure of the US military detention centre at Guantnamo Bay and urges governments, human rights defenders and its members around the world to send a clear message to the US government that it is time for Guantnamo to go.

The UN experts also concluded that interrogation techniques authorized for use at the facility violate the Convention against Torture; that international human rights law is applicable to the facility and that the US is obliged to either bring the detainees to trial under US law or release them.

Susan Lee, Director of Amnesty Internationals Americas Programme said: "The report confirms concerns which AI has repeatedly raised with the US government. We have consistently called for the detention facility at Guantnamo Bay to be closed. The US can no longer make the case, morally or legally, for keeping it open.

Guantnamo Bay is just the tip of the iceberg. The United States also operates detention facilities at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and has been implicated in the use of secret detention facilities in other countries, also known as 'black sites'.

All these facilities, including Guantnamo Bay, must be opened to independent scrutiny. All detainees should have access to the courts and should be treated humanely. These are basic principles that cannot be overridden even in time of war or national emergency.

To date the US has rejected any independent inquiry into its overseas detention facilities, nor has Washington been prepared to cooperate with a Council of Europe investigation into 'rendition' of terrorism suspects.

The selective disregard for international law by the United States in the context of the 'war on terror' has enormous influence over the rest of the world. When the US commits serious human rights violations it sends a signal to abusive governments that these practices are permissible. This is why Guantnamo Bay is so important: it tells other governments that they can commit human rights violations in the name of counter-terrorism too.

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