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UN Rights Experts Turn Down Visit To Guantanamo

‘Deeply Regretting’ US Terms, UN Rights Experts Turn Down Visit To Guantanamo

Five independent United Nations human rights experts today rejected a United States invitation to visit its detention base in Guantanamo, Cuba, because the US Government did not accept standard terms for a “credible, objective and fair assessment,” including the ability to conduct private interviews with detainees.

“It is particularly disappointing that the United States Government, which has consistently declared its commitment to the principles of independence and objectivity of the fact-finding mechanisms, was not in a position to accept these terms,” the five Rapporteurs of the UN Commission on Human Rights said in a joint statement.

The five, who are studying the applicability of international human rights law to persons arrested, detained or tried for alleged terrorism or other violations, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere, announced last month that they had accepted a US invitation to visit the base provided they had free access to all detainees and the opportunity to carry out private interviews.

But they have received no US response on this point.

“We deeply regret that the United States Government did not accept the standard Terms of Reference for a credible, objective and fair assessment of the situation of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. These Terms include the ability to conduct private interviews with detainees,” they said today.

“Under the circumstances, we will not be travelling to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, as doing so would undermine the principles on which the work of the Special Procedures, the fact-finding mechanisms established by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, is based,” they added.

“These principles apply to all fact-finding missions undertaken by the different Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups and Experts of the Commission to all countries.”

The Rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the Commission and report back to it.

The five are: are 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; Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; 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.

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