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UN calls for Guantanamo closure

BBC | February 15 2006

UN human rights investigators have called for the immediate closure of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

The UN report on conditions in the Cuba camp says the US should try all inmates or free them "without further delay".

Some aspects of the treatment of the 500-strong camp population amount to torture, the UN team alleges.

The US has rejected most of the allegations, saying that the five investigators never actually visited Guantanamo Bay.

It called the report's conclusions "largely without merit and not based clearly in the facts".

One of the five investigators responsible for the report, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak, said that the detention of inmates for years without charge amounted to arbitrary detention.

"Those persons either have to be released immediately or they should be brought to a proper and competent court and tried for the offences they are charged with," he told the BBC.

Allegations

Speaking in London before the release of the report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she could not endorse every recommendation made by the report - but that she could see little alternative to closing down the facility.

A draft version of the document was leaked earlier this week.

It says US treatment of detainees, some of whom have been held for more than four years, violates their rights to physical and mental health.

The report expresses concern at the use of excessive force during transportation and force-feeding through nasal tubes during hunger strikes, which it says amounts to torture.

The lack of any US investigation into these allegations is a breach of the UN Convention against Torture, it adds.

The report ends by demanding that the UN be granted full and unrestricted access to the camp's facilities, including private interviews with detainees.

Access row

The US invited the UN to the camp last year, but refused to grant the investigators the right to speak to detainees in private.

The UN said that private interviews were a "totally non-negotiable pre-condition" for conducting the visit and refused to send investigators.

The Pentagon has said only the International Committee of the Red Cross needs free access to prisoners.

The charity has been granted access, but reports its findings only to the detaining authorities.

The report is based on interviews with former detainees and lawyers acting on behalf of inmates, media reports, reports by non-governmental organisations and US government answers to a questionnaire.

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