U.N. Inspectors Declined Guantanamo Visit, Officials Say
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2006 The authors of an upcoming U.N.-sponsored report that alleges torture was committed against detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had declined an offer to observe operations at the facility, Defense and State Department officials said.
"Any report that they may be writing would certainly suffer from the opportunity that was offered to them to go down there and witness firsthand the operations at Guantanamo," DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters at the Pentagon today.
U.N. representatives could have visited the U.S. military-run Guantanamo detention facility, but had declined the offer because they wouldn't be allowed to interview detainees, Whitman said yesterday. Representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross, he said, are granted such access.
About 500 detainees are now being held at the facility, opened in 2002 to hold terrorists captured on battlefields in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
An article published yesterday in the Los Angeles Times said the draft U.N. report contains allegations that some Guantanamo detainees undergoing self-imposed hunger strikes had been treated in a way tantamount to torture during force-feeding procedures and in other situations. The article said the report, which allegedly recommends the closure of the Guantanamo facility, is the result of an 18-month investigation sponsored by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
Whitman today said that he hadn't read the U.N. report, and noted that the State Department is the primary information source on this issue.
The LA Times article noted that five U.N. envoys had interviewed former Guantanamo detainees, their lawyers and families in the making of the report.
"When people hear these press reports about these outcomes and when they actually view the final report, I would urge them to look at it in the context of the fact that nobody who wrote this report actually went to Guantanamo," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday.
He dismissed U.N. allegations cited in the LA Times article that Guantanamo detainees on hunger strikes were mistreated.
"One of the assertions about torture allegedly being committed down in Guantanamo Bay centered around the use of feeding those prisoners who had gone on hunger strikes," McCormack said, "and I have to tell you that the doctors down there comply with accepted international practice when it comes to these questions."
The Guantanamo detention facility "is protecting the American people, as well as others, from dangerous individuals," he said.
"As far as we are concerned, they were picked up for a good reason. They were picked up fighting on the battlefields of Afghanistan or elsewhere."