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PRESS CONFERENCE BY SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES, LAWYERS

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

28 October 2005

United Nations Special Rapporteurs who had requested permission to visit the Guantanamo Bay detainees had been told that the United States intended to issue an invitation for them to do so, and they would make a decision by 29 October whether to accept the invitation, Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Mr. Despouy met with reporters after briefing the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) on his recent activities. Those activities included conducting a mission to Ecuador, where there were difficult issues having to do with the judiciary and the constitution; assisting in the development of a constitution and of the Iraqi Special Tribunal; assisting with the work of the International Criminal Court; dealing with Uzbek refugees in Kyrgyzstan; and analysing the legal measures that had been adopted in the fight against terrorism.

Two years ago, the special procedures experts of the United Nations had asked three rapporteurs and one working group chair to visit the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Despouy said. In addition to Mr. Despouy, the group included Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Paul Hunt, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Asma Jahangir, the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion; and Leila Zerrougui, the Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Mr. Nowak and Ms. Zerrougui also attended today’s press conference.

Mr. Despouy said the request was made “a while ago” and two meetings had been held with the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations. Earlier today, the United States said that it intended to issue an invitation for the group to visit.

The group’s decision to accept the invitation, said Mr. Nowak, would be based on whether the restrictions placed on the visit would meet United Nations guidelines on the conditions required for visiting detainees. If exceptions could not be made such that the restrictions sufficiently corresponded with the United Nations guidelines, the invitation would either be turned down or the group would seek to negotiate further with the United States.

He added that the group was expected to make a decision by noon on Saturday. Once it had informed the United States Government of its decision, the group would make its decision public.

In response to a question as to how much access the United States would allow and whether the Rapporteurs would be able to meet with detainees without being accompanied, Mr. Nowak said he could not say how much access the United States would allow because he had just learned of the prospective invitation and had to discuss it with the other investigators first.

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For information media • not an official record



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