Pentagon invites UN torture investigator to Guantanamo
By Will Dunham 1 hour, 15 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday
invited three UN human rights investigators, including
the one who examines torture allegations, to visit the
Guantanamo Bay prison camp in a bid to show "we have
nothing to hide."
Human rights activists have criticized the United
States for the indefinite detention of the roughly 505
detainees being held at the prison for foreign
terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon said the three would be permitted to
observe operations at Guantanamo "and ask questions of
the command, staff and U.S. officials who would
But Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman on
detainee issues, said they would not be allowed to
speak to detainees because that was the role of the
International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Pentagon said the invitations were extended to
Austria's Manfred Nowak, special investigator for the
United Nations on torture, Pakistan's Asma Jahangir,
who focuses on religious freedom, and Algeria's Leila
Zerrougui, who looks into arbitrary detention.
"This goes to our desire to show that we have nothing
to hide," Ballesteros said.
The three rights experts announced they would respond
to the invitation at a news conference on Monday at UN
headquarters in New York.
"Although department policy does not provide for such
visits to military detention facilities, the
department has determined on an exceptional basis to
extend this invitation," the Pentagon said in a
statement. "The department strives for transparency in
our operation to the extent possible in light of
security and operational requirements and the need to
ensure the safety of our forces."
Criticism by human rights groups has escalated in
recent weeks with the U.S. military's disclosure that
it was force-feeding Guantanamo detainees staging an
ongoing hunger strike over their conditions and lack
of legal rights.
The Pentagon has defended its treatment of prisoners
and denied that torture has occurred at the Guantanamo
facility, which opened in January 2002, just months
after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United
States. Most of the detainees were seized in
Men who have been released from Guantanamo have stated
they were tortured there. The International Committee
of the Red Cross last year accused the U.S. military
of using tactics "tantamount to torture" on Guantanamo
prisoners. An FBI agent wrote in a memo that became
public last year that Pentagon interrogators used
"torture techniques" at Guantanamo.
The United States has classified the detainees as
"enemy combatants" and denied them rights accorded to
prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. Only
four detainees have been charged with crimes.