U. N. Report Calls for U.S. to Shut Down Guantánamo Prison

February 18, 2006

On February 16, the U.N. issued a report on the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay.

The report, summarizing an investigation by five U.N. experts, called on the U.S. government "to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention center and to refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

The report's findings were based on interviews with former detainees, public documents, media reports, lawyers and a questionnaire filled out by the U.S. government. The study said photographic evidence and the testimonies of former prisoners showed detainees were shackled, chained, hooded and forced to wear earphones and goggles. They said prisoners were beaten if they resisted. "Such treatment amounts to torture," the report said.

Other human rights abuses cited by the report included:

* The inability of suspects to challenge their captivity before a judicial body which "amounts to arbitrary detention."

* A hearing system in which the executive branch of the U.S. government acts as judge, prosecutor and defense council for detainees which constitutes "a serious violation of the right to a fair trial."

The report also said that there was evidence of religious discrimination, and that some interrogation techniques were "aimed at offending the religious feelings of detainees." Some interrogation techniques -- particularly the use of dogs, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation for several consecutive days and prolonged isolation -- caused extreme suffering, according to the report.

500 prisoners have been held for nearly 4 years at Guantánamo Bay, and most have never been charged with any crime. So far, only 10 of the prisoners have been charged and even the U.S. government admits that, at most, only 8 percent of the detainees are "linked to Al Qaeda." (see, for example, New York Times, 2/16/06).

According to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), hundreds of prisoners have staged hunger strikes at Guantánamo during the past two years, demanding that they be released or brought to trial.