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U.N.: U.S. should close Guantanamo prison

An unidentifiable detainee spends time outside his cell in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, on July 6, 2005.
An unidentifiable detainee spends time outside his cell in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba, on July 6, 2005.Andres Leighton / AP file
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The United States should close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using secret detention facilities in its war on terror, a U.N. panel report released Friday said.

In an 11-page report on its review of U.S. adherence to the Treaty Against Torture, the committee said detainees should not be returned to any state where they could face a “real risk” of being tortured.

“The state party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close the detention facility,” said the U.N. Committee Against Torture, a panel of 10 independent experts on adherence to the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The United States should also ensure that no one is detained in secret detention facilities under its control and disclose the existence of any such places, the report said.

The committee said it was concerned that detainees were being held for protracted periods with insufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention.

President Bush has said that he would like to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay at some point, though he has not laid out a timetable.

"I very much would like to end Guantanamo. I very much would like to get people to a court," Bush said on May 8, adding, "We're waiting for our Supreme Court to give us a decision as to whether the people need to have a fair trial in a civilian court or a military court."

The committee was also concerned about allegations that the United States has established secret prisons, where the international Red Cross does not have access to the detainees.

“The state party should ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control,” the report said. “The state party should investigate and disclose the existence of any such facilities and the authority under which they have been established and the manner in which detainees are treated.”

'Eradicate all forms of torture'
The U.N. report also said the United States must “eradicate” all forms of torture committed by its personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq and investigate allegations thoroughly, prosecuting any staff found guilty.

“The state party should take immediate measures to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by its military or civilian personnel, in any territory under its jurisdiction,” said the report, which was presenting its conclusions from a hearing earlier this month into U.S. conduct.

The United States made in its first appearance before the U.N. Committee Against Torture in six years earlier this month, addressing issues ranging from Washington’s interpretation of the ban on torture to its interrogation methods in prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and Guantanamo.

The committee also said the U.S. should rescind interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel treatment, citing methods including sexual humiliation, mock drownings and the use of dogs to induce fear.

It said some techniques “have resulted in the death of some detainees during interrogation” and criticized vague U.S. guidelines that “have led to serious abuse of detainees.”

The U.S. had invited the committee behind Friday's report to visit Guantanamo Bay, but the panel "chose not to do so," according to White House spokesman Tony Snow.

"Everything that is done in terms of questioning detainees is fully within the boundaries of American law," he said.