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Friday, November 18, 2005 

UN stands up to US over Guantanamo bay.

Well, by stand up I mean they've refused an invitation because the US wouldn't allow them to talk the detainees on their own. In other words, a lose-lose situation.

The UN has formally rejected a US invitation to visit the Guantanamo prison camp, saying it cannot accept the restrictions imposed by Washington.

UN human rights experts said the US had refused to grant them the right to speak to detainees in private.

UN senior official Manfred Nowak said private interviews were a "totally non-negotiable pre-condition" for conducting the visit.

Some 500 terror suspects are being held at the US military camp.

Mr Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, told the BBC his team would accept nothing less than unfettered access.

"If you want to hear from a detainee or know from a detainee whether he or she has been subjected to torture or ill treatment then you must be allowed to speak to this person in private," he said.

"In front of prison guards they would never tell you the truth because of being afraid of reprisal.

"There are certain conditions which we feel are non-negotiable and unannounced visit to places of detention and private interviews with detainees is one of those totally non-negotiable pre-conditions."

Only the International Committee of the Red Cross has been given access to the prisoners. It reports its findings only to the detaining authorities.

Human rights campaigners have expressed growing concern about the treatment of the inmates at Guantanamo, a number of whom are on hunger strike.

Calls for it to be opened to human rights monitors increased this year, as more allegations surfaced of abuse at the prison camp.

UN officials have been trying to visit the camp since it opened in January 2002.

Last month, the Pentagon said the UN monitors would be allowed to visit the camp on 6 December.

Pentagon spokesman Lieut Col Brian Maker told the BBC the invitation to the UN team was intended to allay fears that detainees were being mistreated.

The Pentagon spokesman's contention that the invitation was to show that detainees were not being mistreated is nonsense on one simple matter: those who are on hunger strike in protest at the conditions in the camp are being force-fed, with the result that the prisoners are coughing up blood thanks to the ways they are having feeding tubes shoved down their noses.

Even more alarming is an article by Victoria Brittain, which contends that many of the detainees are innocents. The US has not yet confirmed whether it has released the two children it was detaining at Guantanamo, in breach of nearly every international war protocol you can name. It's also worth remembering that the US and Somalia are the only two countries not to sign the UN convention on the rights of the child, Somalia's excuse being that it lacks a central government. The US declined to sign it because some states execute children aged 16 and 17 for crimes which carry the death penalty.

Victoria Brittain ends her article by saying that history will judge the current administration harshly. Francis Fukuyama's statement that the end of the Soviet Union brought about the end of history was incorrect. The problem with both Tony Blair and the Bush administration is that they haven't and don't understand history. By the time the contemporary becomes history, who's to say it might have been abolished altogether?

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