The United States government is torturing inmates at its Guantanamo Bay concentration camp on the tip of Cuba, and it should be shut down.
That is the finding of a United Nations investigation into the camp where hundreds of detainees have been held without charge or trial for four years.
The draft report of the UN’s five human rights experts says that the US force-feeding of detainees on hunger strike, placing them in solitary confinement for prolonged periods and exposing them to extreme temperatures, noise and light, are acts of torture.
The report adds: ‘The apparent attempts by the US administration to reinterpret certain interrogation techniques as not reaching the threshold of torture in the framework of the struggle against terrorism are of utmost concern.’
The UN experts demand the interrogation techniques authorised by the US Department of Defence be revoked.
They also conclude that the US government is in violation of the detainees’ basic right to a fair trial, to freedom of religion and to health.
Officials in Washington rejected the draft report because it treats detainees’ rights according to peacetime human rights laws.
An unnamed official from the US State Department said: ‘Once you fail to even acknowledge that (the war on terror) as the legal basis for what we’re doing, much of the legal analysis that follows just doesn’t hold.’
But the UN experts dismiss Washington’s claim that the ‘war on terror’ constitutes an armed conflict.
The draft report was delivered to the Bush administration on January 16.
Details were leaked to the ‘Los Angeles Times’ on Sunday and the report has now been obtained by journalists.
The five UN experts, who were given mandates to investigate torture, freedom of religion, health, independent judiciary and arbitrary detention, started working together to monitor conditions at Guantanamo Bay in June 2004.
They were appointed for three-year terms by the UN Human Rights Commission, made up of representatives from 53 countries.
The experts had been attempting to gain access to Guantanamo since 2002, but turned down a US invitation last year because the American government refused them permission to speak to the detainees.
Of the 500 or so detainees being held at the base, only 10 have actually had charges filed against them.
The report says: ‘In the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, the US executive operates as judge, as prosecutor and as defence counsel. This constitutes serious violations of various guarantees of the right to a fair trial.’
The report is being presented to the next session of the UN Human Rights Commission.