July 28, 2006

U.N. rights body tells US to shut “secret” jails

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Committee on
Friday told Washington it should immediately shut all "secret
detention" facilities and give the International Committee of
the Red Cross access to anybody held in armed conflict.

In findings on U.S. observance of the U.N.'s main political
rights' convention, the committee said it had "credible and
uncontested" information that the United States had detained
people "secretly and in secret places for months and years."

"The state party should immediately abolish all secret
detention and secret detention facilities," it said, echoing a
similar demand in May by the United Nations' Committee on

The committee said it could not accept Washington's
argument that the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, which the United States has signed, does not apply to
anyone held outside U.S. territory.

The covenant spells out basic individual rights, including
equality before the law, protection against torture and
inhumane treatment and arbitrary arrest.

"The state party (the United States) should review its
approach and interpret the covenant in good faith," said the
committee, which was subjecting Washington to its first review
since 1995.

The U.S. report to the committee, submitted in October, was
seven years late.

The U.N. body also expressed concern at the past use of
interrogation techniques like prolonged stress positions and
isolation, hooding, sleep or food deprivation, that may be a
form of torture and welcomed assurances they were no more used.

But it said that it was concerned that the United States
did not appear to regard these techniques as being violations
of the rules against torture and inhumane and degrading

The 9-page findings also hit out at reports of police
brutality and the apparent discrimination against
African-Americans in operations to help victims of the Katrina
hurricane in New Orleans last year.