US mum on Guantanamo

The United States has turned down a UN human rights panel's request to provide information about its detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a report has revealed.

    About 500 prisoners are being held in Guantanamo

    Washington declined to include information on detention facilities outside US territory in its report submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, according to the document on Tuesday.

    The committee, made up of 18 independent experts elected by the UN General Assembly, in July 2004 pressed Washington for information about its overseas military detention centres.

    However, according to the US response late last month, these fall outside the committee's remit because they are "governed by the laws of war".

    Like the other 153 signatories of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the US is bound to submit regular reports to the committee on its implementation of what is the UN's core human rights accord.


    Washington reaffirmed its stance that the covenant only applies on US territory - something the committee has disputed in the past.

    "The obligations assumed by the United States under the covenant apply only within the territory of the United States"

    US report

    "The obligations assumed by the United States under the covenant apply only within the territory of the United States," said the report.

    "The United States has sought to respond to the Committee's concerns as fully as possible, notwithstanding the continuing difference of view between the Committee and the United States concerning certain matters relating to the import and scope of provision of the Covenant," it added.

    The UN committee also gathers information from non-governmental sources.

    Regular allegations

    Released detainees and advocacy groups have made regular allegations of human rights violations at the US military's foreign detention centres, stoked by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.

    Controversy has raged over the
    Guantanamo centre

    Controversy has raged over the Guantanamo centre, in a US military enclave in Cuba.

    About 500 people are being held there, most without charges, as enemy combatants in the US war on terrorism. Most were captured in 2001 in Afghanistan.

    Last week, Washington announced that it would invite three UN human rights experts to visit the base for a day, with the goal "to broaden understanding of US detention operations and to demonstrate that detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely".

    But on Monday the experts - who are not part of the committee - said they would only go on their proposed 6 December mission if they have free access to the prisoners.



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