Published on Thursday, June 23, 2005 by the Associated Press
U.N. Experts Say They Have Reliable Accounts of Torture at Guantanamo
by Bradley S. Klapper
GENEVA - U.N. human rights experts said Thursday they have reliable accounts of detainees being tortured at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The experts also said Washington had not responded to their latest request to check on the conditions of terror suspects at the facility in eastern Cuba. That request was made in April.
U.S. officials so far have allowed only the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Guantanamo detainees. The U.N. human rights investigators have been trying to visit since 2002.
The ICRC keeps its findings confidential, reporting them solely to the detaining power, although some of the reports have been leaked by what the ICRC says were third parties.
The U.N. experts would be expected to make a public report.
A U.S. spokeswoman said the U.N. request was being reviewed in Washington.
The experts, who report to U.N. bodies on different human rights issues, said their request for a visit was "based on information, from reliable sources, of serious allegations of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, arbitrary detention, violations of their right to health and their due process rights."
"Many of these allegations have come to light through declassified (U.S.) government documents," they said.
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said his team needed full access to Guantanamo's facilities and prison population, but the United States refused to guarantee him the right to speak to detainees in private.
"We deeply regret that the government of the United States has still not invited us to visit those persons arrested, detained or tried on grounds of alleged terrorism or other violations," the experts said in their statement.
The experts said they were expressing their misgivings because "the lack of a definitive answer despite repeated requests suggests that the United States is not willing to cooperate with the United Nations human rights machinery on this issue."
The experts report to U.N. bodies on torture, physical and mental health, independence of judges and arbitrary detention.
Brooks Robinson, spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to U.N. offices in Geneva, said the response had been delayed because the U.S. review process is "thorough and independent" and involves the Bush administration, Congress and the U.S. judicial system.
"It is true there is no answer yet to their request, but the main point is that their request is being addressed and discussed and reviewed in the United States," Robinson told The Associated Press.
"That process is underway in response to this request."
She noted that U.S. officials consistently have denied violating the principle of humane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism. The first detainees began arriving at Guantanamo Bay shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.
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