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Homeland Security

UN Experts Call for Guantanamo Closure

16 February 2006

U.N. human rights investigators are calling for the immediate closure of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Five U.N. human rights experts say the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility in some cases constitutes torture.

In a report released in Geneva, the U.N. investigators say harsh conditions, including solitary confinement, stripping detainees naked, subjecting them to severe temperatures and force-feeding hunger strikers, violate international law. The report calls for the United States to bring all the detainees to trial or release them.

In a telephone interview with VOA from London, co-author of the report Paul Hunt said the facility should be closed immediately.

"There are a large number of people subject to arbitrary detention in Guantanamo Bay, and they have been there for some years," he said. "In accordance with international human rights law, they should be allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before an independent judicial body. The report also expresses concern about the treatment - not all, but some of the treatment - that detainees have been subjected to. We conclude by recommending that Guantanamo Bay [be] closed; that the detainees should be subject to trial and if not, they should be released."

The U.S. ambassador to U.N. offices in Geneva, Kevin Moley, objected to the experts' conclusions. In a letter attached as an annex to the report, Moley said the findings had been based only on selective factual assertions that support the conclusions, while ignoring facts that could undermine them. He called the report "largely without merit and not based clearly on the facts."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the report appears to be a rehash of allegations made by lawyers for some of the detainees. The spokesman noted that the International Committee of the Red Cross has had full access to the Guantanmo facility, and added "we know that al-Qaida detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations."

"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," he said. "This was not one of them. And I think 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."

U.N. investigators did not visit the facility at Guantanamo Bay, saying they rejected an invitation because they would not have had unrestricted access to detainees.

About 490 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taleban.

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