UN experts 'deeply regret' US failure to allow Guantanamo visit on torture report

23 June 2005

Senior United Nations human rights experts today deeply regretted the United States Government's failure so far to allow them to visit detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo Bay naval base following information "from reliable sources" of serious allegations of torture.

"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," they said in a statement issued in Geneva, a year after they requested the visit.

"It is our conviction that no Member State of the United Nations is above international human rights law," they added. "Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the lack of cooperation and given the responsibilities to our respective mandates, we will jointly conduct an investigation based on all credible sources regarding the situation of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay."

The statement was issued by Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Paul Hunt, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. It had the endorsements of Special Rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairpersons of all working groups of the Special Procedures of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

"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 in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Guantanamo Bay naval base," the statement said.

"Such requests were 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 Government documents," it added.

"The purpose of the visit would be to examine objectively the allegations first-hand and ascertain whether international human rights standards that are applicable in these particular circumstances are being upheld with respect to those detained persons. The Independent Experts have given ample time to the Government to consider their request and have made themselves available for any needed consultations."

The experts said that should the US Government extend a visit to Guantanamo they would incorporate the findings into their other investigations.


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