May 19, 2006

UN body urges US to shut “secret prisons”

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations committee against
torture told the United States on Friday it should close any
secret prisons abroad and the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba,
saying they violated international law.

The 10 independent experts, who examined the U.S. record at
home and abroad, also urged President George W. Bush's
administration to "rescind any interrogation technique" that
constituted torture or cruel treatment, citing use of dogs to
terrify detainees.

The United States "should ensure that no one is detained in
any secret detention facility under its de facto effective
control" and "investigate and disclose the existence of any
such facilities," said the committee, which has moral authority
but no legal power to enforce its recommendations.

"Detaining persons in such conditions constitutes, per se,
a violation of the Convention," said the committee which
examines compliance with the U.N. Convention against Torture,
or other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The United States is holding hundreds of terrorism
suspects, most arrested since Al Qaeda's September 11 attacks
in 2001, at its prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo
Bay. It refuses to comment on allegations of secret jails.

Washington, which sent 30 senior officials to Geneva in
early May for the committee's hearings, defended its treatment
of foreign terrorism suspects held abroad, saying there had
been "relatively few actual cases of abuse."

Human rights groups have accused the United States of
mistreating detainees through cruel interrogation methods
including "water-boarding"', a form of mock drowning.

In its findings, the committee voiced concern at "reliable
reports of acts of torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment" by U.S. military or civilian personnel in
Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The state party (the United States) should take immediate
measures to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment of
detainees by its military or civilian personnel ... and should
promptly and thoroughly investigate such acts and prosecute all
those responsible...," it said.

All detainees should be registered and a record kept of the
time and place of interrogations, according to the body which
told the United States that it should report back in a year.