- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

NEW YORK — A United Nations’ inquiry will call for the immediate closure of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the prosecution of officers and politicians “up to the highest level” who are accused of torturing detainees.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission report, to be published this week, concludes that Washington should put the 520 detainees on trial or release them.

The report calls for the United States to halt all “practices amounting to torture,” including the force-feeding of inmates who go on hunger strike.

U.S. officials, informed yesterday of the report’s contents, rejected the findings as “a hatchet job.”

“This shows precisely what is wrong with the United Nations today,” said a senior official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “These people are supposed to be undertaking a serious investigation of the facts relating to Guantanamo.

“Instead, they deliver a report with a bunch of old allegations from lawyers representing released detainees that are so generalized that you cannot even tell what they are talking about. When the U.N. produces an unprofessional hatchet job like this, it discredits the whole organization.”

The Bush administration has been frustrated for months by resistance from many countries to attempts to reform the Human Rights Commission, which critics say has been co-opted by some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, including Sudan, Zimbabwe and China.

The forthcoming report will call for the Bush administration to ensure that all complaints of torture are investigated by U.S. criminal courts and that “all perpetrators up to the highest level of military and political command are brought to justice.”

It does not specify who it means by “political command.”

The demands are contained in the final report of the commission’s working group on arbitrary detention, which will be presented at its Geneva headquarters in the next few days. A copy of the report was obtained by the Daily Telegraph.

The report’s authors question the right of the United States to classify the detainees as “enemy combatants” and argue that the “war on terror” is not justification for holding them indefinitely without charges.

The authors also are deeply critical of recent reports that some of the detainees have been subjected to force-feeding when they have gone on hunger strike. The U.N. report argues that force-feeding is akin to torture and demands that “the authorities in Guantanamo Bay do not force-feed any detainee who is capable of forming a rational judgment and is aware of the consequences of refusing food.”

U.S. officials disputed the suggestion that force-feeding is torture, arguing that they have a duty under international law to protect the lives of the detainees.

“We are proud of the fact that none of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay has died since it opened,” an official said.

The U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay was adapted to hold hundreds of al Qaeda fighters captured during the 2001 war in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime. More than 750 detainees have been processed by the facility in the past four years.

Although U.S. officials are prepared to concede that there are conflicting interpretations over how the laws governing international conflict should be applied, they are furious at the way the U.N. investigation was conducted, especially the evidence the four “special rapporteurs” who compiled the report have used to reach their conclusions.

Although Washington invited the group to visit Guantanamo at the end of last year to inspect the facility, the rapporteurs rejected the invitation after American officials made clear that they would not be allowed to meet the detainees.

The rapporteurs “were offered the same access as congressmen responsible for overseeing the facility, but they declined to take up the offer,” said a government official. “And then they complain that they had no access to doctors or guards — all of which they were offered.”

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