Reuters reports that the United Nations Committee against Torture has told the United States that secret jails for foreign terrorism suspects, as well as the Guantanamo Bay prison, are illegal and should be closed. In the first UN review of US policy since the launch of the “war on terrorism,” the committee also called for a ban on cruel interrogation methods, including using dogs to frighten detainees, “water-boarding” (a form of mock drowning) and sexual humiliation. Some detainees had died during questioning, the committee said.
The US State Department rejected the recommendations to close the jails, saying that the committee had exceeded ite remit.
The committee comprises 10 independent experts who have moral authority but no legal enforcement powers.
The US holds hundreds of terrorism suspects at locations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Commenting on the UN statement, Roy Brown, main IHEU representative at the UN Geneva said, “The continuing abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo bay and holding prisoners in secret locations are both clear violations of the 1997 convention against torture. Whatever excuses the Bush administration may make, this convention is legally binding on the US but lacks teeth since it contains no provisions for enforcement. It is deeply cynical of the US administration to deny torture when they are only able to do so because they have redefined torture in a way that is non-compliant with the wording of the UN convention.”
Footnote: Those of us who were fortunate enough to visit Albany after the IHEU General Assembly were able to see the New York State Senate in action. But we were appalled when a motion to permit prison guards discretion to unshackle women prisoners during childbirth was defeated. The shackling of women prisoners in childbirth – a regular practice in American jails – was also condemned in the UN report.