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U.N. rights envoys condemn Bush plan on interrogation

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://reuters.myway.com/article/20060921/2006-09-21T200548Z_01_L21577318_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-RIGHTS-UN-USA-DC.html U.N. rights envoys condemn Bush plan on
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      http://reuters.myway.com/article/20060921/2006-09-21T200548Z_01_L21577318_RTRIDST_0_NEWS-RIGHTS-UN-USA-DC.html

      U.N. rights envoys condemn Bush plan on interrogation

      Sep 21, 4:05 PM (ET)


      By Stephanie Nebehay

      GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations human rights
      investigators said on Thursday that legislation
      proposed by President Bush for tough interrogations of
      foreign terrorism suspects would breach the Geneva
      Conventions.

      In a statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the
      five independent envoys also said Washington's
      admission of secret detention centres abroad pointed
      to "very serious human rights violations in relation
      to the hunt for alleged terrorists."

      They again called for the closure of the U.S.
      detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where
      hundreds of foreign terrorism suspects are being held,
      alleging continued violations of international law on
      torture and arbitrary detention.

      Despite U.S. declarations of intent to shut
      Guantanamo, Washington had done nothing yet and was
      even planning to open a new cell bloc at the end of
      this month, they said.

      "We call on the government to close down the
      Guantanamo Bay detention center and, until that time,
      to refrain from any practice amounting to torture,
      cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," they said.

      The statement was read out by Leila Zerrougui, the
      Algerian chairwoman of the U.N. working group on
      arbitrary detention.

      She is one of the five investigators who have tried
      since June 2004 to visit Guantanamo detainees.
      Washington has said it would allow three of them to go
      for one day, but not to see prisoners privately, a key
      demand of the investigators.

      In reply, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Warren
      Tichenor reiterated Washington's desire to close
      Guantanamo but said that this could only be done when
      other countries agreed to take some of the prisoners
      being held there.

      He regretted the investigators' decision not to make
      the visit and accused them of basing their report on
      "second- and third-hand allegations."

      "LEGALISE" RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

      The Bush administration says that with the transfer of
      14 detainees, including one of the alleged masterminds
      of September 11, to Guantanamo earlier this month
      there are no more suspects being held in secret jails.

      But Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on
      torture, told journalists that others remained
      unaccounted for, which he said amounted to the banned
      crime of "enforced disappearances."

      "We have a number of further individuals that have
      been detained and we do not know where they are," he
      said, adding that the Council should give the five
      envoys a mandate to investigate all past and present
      secret centres.

      On Wednesday, a U.S. House of Representatives panel
      endorsed Bush's bill for tough interrogations and
      trials of foreign terrorism suspects. Washington says
      such techniques have helped obtain information that
      has prevented attacks.

      The other special envoys report on freedom of
      religion, physical and mental health and the
      independence of judges.

      The five said that the bill, which has still to be
      approved by the full House and the Senate, amounted to
      an attempt to "legalise" rights violations that have
      been condemned in Guantanamo and elsewhere.

      The proposed legislation was "in breach with United
      States' human rights obligation as identified in our
      report and with the requirement of article 3 of the
      Geneva Conventions," they said, referring to the 1949
      treaty which lays down basic guarantees of protection
      for detainees.

      The plan would allow the U.S. government to arrest and
      detain indefinitely people who were not involved in
      any armed conflict and torture was not banned
      outright, they said.
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