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US Officials Decry UN Report on Guantanamo and Latest Abu Ghraib Pictures

17 February 2006

U.S. officials have dismissed a United Nations human rights report calling on the United States to either bring to trial or release all detainees in its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. officials also have deplored acts of Iraqi prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers as shown in a series of newly-released pictures taken more than two years ago at the notorious prison of Abu Ghraib.

Investigators for the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva wrote the report, which concludes the United States is violating the rights of detainees imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay by not bringing them to trial before an independent tribunal. The report says the United States should either bring the detainees to trial or free them.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the report.

"The international committee of the Red Cross has been provided full access to the detainees, the military treats the detainees humanely as directed by the president of the United States. The United Nations should be making serious investigations across the world and there are many instances in which they do when it comes to human rights,” said Mr. McClellan. “This was not one of them, and I think it is 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."

Nevertheless, at the United Nations, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Thursday the Guantanamo facility should be closed as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, newspapers published newly-released pictures of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison more than two years ago. The reaction in the streets of Baghdad was harsh: "We should pay heed to such acts and violations and they should not be ignored. The violations are endless by U.S. and British troops," said one person.

The latest pictures from Abu Ghraib were taken at the same time as the earlier photos of abuse by U.S. guards several years ago that triggered a worldwide scandal.

At a U.S. Congressional hearing Thursday, Democratic Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur expressed dismay. "I think the United States has lost its moral authority in this so-called war on terrorism across the Islamic and Persian world, and I ask myself every day what we can do to regain it."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was testifying before the Congressional panel, was quick to condemn the instances of prisoner abuse.

"The Department of Defense from the beginning of this conflict has a policy that prohibits torture. It is not permitted; we do not do it today. The people are trained to avoid it, and there's no question that there was conduct that was improper and people were court-martialed and people have been sent to prison," said the secretary.

Despite these actions, in the Arab world Abu Ghraib prison remains synonymous with prisoner abuse.

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