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UN report recommends closing Guantanamo jail
Reuters
Evelyn Leopold
February 13, 2006

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Five U.N. human rights experts urged the United States to shut down Guantanamo Bay after concluding the forced-feeding of prisoners and some interrogation techniques amounted to acts of torture, according to a draft report obtained on Monday.

The 38-page report, which may be revised, accused the United States of distorting international law by denying prisoners the right to due process, such as not allowing them to choose their defense lawyer and appointing hearing officers with a "minimum level of legal knowledge."

The report was first published by the Los Angeles Times in its Monday editions and obtained by Reuters. U.S. officials dismissed the report as hearsay.

The survey is the result of an 18-month investigation ordered by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and was based on interviews by the investigators with former prisoners, their lawyers and families, but not on-site visits.

The U.N. team rejected an invitation to tour the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, where more than 500 people have been held since the September 11, 2001, because they would not have been allowed to interview prisoners.

"The U.S. government should close Guantanamo Bay detention facilities without further delay," the report said, adding that the United States should either bring all the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to trial in a U.S. territory "or release them."

Harsh conditions, such as placing detainees in solitary confinement, stripping them naked, subjecting them to severe temperatures or threatening them with dogs could amount to torture, if used simultaneously, the report said. Forced-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes caused intense pain, bleeding and vomiting.

Using photos and video, the report said some prisoners transported to Guantanamo were shackled, chained, hooded, kicked and stripped.

"The excessive violence used in many cases during transportation ... and forced-feeding of detainees on hunger strike must be assessed as amounting to torture," it said.

HEARSAY

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack criticized the draft U.N. report as hearsay.

"Just because they decided not to take up the U.S. government on the offer to go to Guantanamo Bay does not automatically give (them) the right to publish a report that is merely hearsay and not based on fact," McCormack said.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the investigators should not have relied on former inmates for information.

"We know from al Qaeda manuals that they are trained to claim abuse and poor conditions in detention," the official told Reuters. "The lack of rigor in this report seems to really undermine its entire credibility."

The U.N. report also said that although 30 days of isolation was the maximum permissible period, some detainees were put back into solitary confinement after very short breaks and lived in "quasi-isolation for up to 18 months."

Of the five envoys, Washington invited three to Guantanamo last year -- Austria's Manfred Nowak, special investigator on torture; Pakistan's Asma Jahangir, who focuses on religious freedom; and Algeria's Leila Zerrougui, who looks into arbitrary detention.

It did not accept Argentina's Leandro Despouy, special investigator on the independence of judges and lawyers, and New Zealand's Paul Hunt, special rapporteur on mental and physical health, who were included in the U.N. request.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming in Washington)

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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