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U.N. Inspectors Declined Guantanamo Visit, Officials Say


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.

No doubt critics will ignore this when the report, which I imagine will slam the US, is released. And nearly everyone will believe every word.


  1. Um, just a little devil’s advocate here, but what’s the point in going down there if you can’t interview detainees? I’m sure there aren’t signs posted around like ‘torture room’ and ‘waterboard storage’. So its just as valid for your headline to be ‘U.N. Inspectors Denied Full Guantanamo Access, Will Issue Report Based on Available Information’.

  2. Maybe that’s just it, Chuck- they won’t have made their report based on *all* available information. It suggests that they’re cherry-picking their items to suit a predetermined conclusion. Imagine that. (Insert stock comparison to Iraqi WMD assessments here.)

  3. Well they are visted by red-cross either way. If they (UN) are that keen on talking to them, they could try and track down some of the people who have been let out. Also, I wonder if the people who write this thing will allow themselves to be interviewed.

  4. I think you will notice the flavor of these UN reports changing as Iran marches forward with their nuclear weapons programs, Hamas makes their now officially representative presence known, and the cartoon riots continue. It’s coming down to a time when the Europeans will either wake up and smell the coffee, or wake up dead. Appeasement doesn’t really seem to be working for them.

  5. Why would the UN actually go to Gitmo or interview the Red Cross types? They have already made up their mind, why confuse them with facts? Tune in to my commentary on abuses of the UN staff towards women. No I am not going there or interviewing anyone. No I am not reading reports about it. I am using the fictional article I wrote about it for my own self gratification. The same motivation they use.

  6. Catch 22. You let them go and interview the detainees, and they will say they are being tortured, whether they are or not. If you don’t let them conduct the interviews, and they do go, whatever they see there they’ll assume you’re hiding torture from them. If you don’t let them conduct the interview, and they don’t go, they’ll assume whatever they want to. It’s a bit of a joke really. Unfortunately not a very funny joke.

  7. Its not like they can’t interview people who have been there an been let out. They could also interview soldiers to, or for that matter the red cross people.

  8. Couple more comments: The Red Cross inspectors do not provide interviews after they visit prison camps. That’s part of the deal for providing access to them. TrustButVerify: They won’t have *all* available information either way because the U.S. is not providing full access. Is it the UN that’s cherry picking? Or the U.S.? Murdoc: Yes, if we don’t let the prisoners ‘say so’, then nothing bad ever happened. That’s a clever rejoinder, but you did not address the fact that there’s really nothing to see down there if you can’t interview prisoners and you’re on a guided tour. I’m sure they don’t have a ‘Koran flushing’ stop on the tour. If the U.S. wants a report based on *all* available information, then it should provide full access. They can’t have it both ways. You can’t provide partial information and then claim that the problem with the report is that they didn’t want to use your partial information. Everyone: This has been a multi-year investigation. Any reason to believe the UN has *not* talked to any former detainees? Also, TFA says that the primary source of information for the report is the State Department. Its not like they’re doing this without input from the U.S. But, hey, I’m sure Bram’s 100 friends would never do anything wrong. None of my friends has ever done anything wrong, made a mistake or gotten caught up in something bigger than them, either.

  9. For more than ten years, I conducted formal internal investigations into alleged staff and criminal misconduct. I was also investigated several times as a result false allegations lodged against me. Don’t know it all, for sure, but I’ve been there and done that. Responsible individuals or organizations, charged with investigating serious allegations of ‘whatever’ should ensure they observe a few ‘standards of good investigating’. For starters, you have to have the authority to conduct the investigation. How would the UN get that authority? Unless the U.S. has signed an agreement the UN authority to investigate certain aspects of our government operations (i.e. Camp Whatever at Gitmo)then they don’t have the necessary authority to do so. So…..we owe the UN no right of access under any cirucmstances. QED. It would be a VERY bad idea to give the UN investigative access to ANY of our governmental operations without a prior agreement. If we ‘spontaneously’ give up our national rights of self regulation and governance on this issue………..why not the next one and the next after that? We’re not the U.S. of the UN, nor should we want to be. If the UN publishes reports, investigative or otherwise, stating prisoners at our dentention facilities allege they’ve mistreated or tortured; that’s exactly what the reports should say………..’allegations’. Reports presented in any other fashion would be untrue, unprofessional, and perhaps indicative of the investigative skill level of the investigator, or the political agenda of organization publishing them. Given the events of the last few years revealing the extent of incompetance and corruption in different UN departments and operations, their credibility and integrity have been degraded to the point where much of what they do, and how they do it, is called into question. Would I want these guys investigating me for anything? Don’t think so. To be honest, if I was the U.S. Government…….I wouldn’t use the UN to bolster ANY of my postions either. They’re just not competent or credible anymore. Reports from the UN that torture is being used by the US, or it’s allies at our detention facilities should be concisely refuted by statements that the reports are based on the unsupported allegations of people with substantial motivation to lie about us. Then we need to shut up on the topic. People who are willing to believe unsupported allegations against us or anyone else are either too stupid to do otherwise, or biased against us to the extent they’d believe it no matter what.

  10. I agree with Dfens, I think we are getting to a scary point in time. Stuff could easily blow over. Especially now with these torture videos and pictures coming out into the open.

  11. chuck, do I really need to point this out? Firstly, not only can what these people say not be trusted, as many of them have every reason to claim they’re tortured even if they’re not (and indeed it’s standard procedure during training to instruct them to do so), but they might be able to get code words out, or even have a UN collaborator which could lead to further attacks and/or jail breaks. It’s unlikely but not unknown. Are you really suggesting that you would allow this if you were in charge? If so I’m glad you’re not. The UN investigators would be GUARANTEED to get claims of torture regardless of what the truth is. That wouldn’t help anybody, except the terrorists. As I said, it’s catch 22. Even if there are problems, people are wrongly imprisoned, etc. how can you tell? They’ll all claim they’re innocent, regardless of whether they are or not. ‘Any reason to believe the UN has *not* talked to any former detainees?’ Well.. they’re incompetent boobs.. do I need a better reason to assume that this is a political stunt? I mean, they don’t even seem to know what torture IS, how can they report on whether it’s taking place?

  12. Man, what a joke. The report is not released yet (I checked the UN web site) so we can’t read it ourselves and get any idea of how reasonable its conclusions are. All we’re told about it is that it ‘…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.’ WHAT? Let me get this straight. These people were starving themselves, which could cause them serious damage. They were fed, presumably due to concerns of their health degrading. And that’s TORTURE? That has to be the most dumb thing I’ve ever heard. I mean, is that the best they can come up with? No fingernails pulled out, no limbs hacked off, no electric shocks – just FORCED FEEDING? And ‘other situations’? Presumably more innocuous, otherwise they would be mentioned specifically. If I were in a prison and that was the worst that happened to me, I’d be grateful.

  13. Here’s a late ‘breaking’ news article from an E.U. country’s newspaper. 2/16/06 The United Nations has demanded that the US shut down its controversial internment camp in Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. In a draft report published today, a panel of UN experts say all detainees at the camp should be freed or given fair trials. The report cites numerous violations of human rights, including force-feeding, violence against prisoners and interrogation techniques that amount to torture. The conclusions are based on interviews with former detainees, as well as public documents, media reports and a questionnaire filled out by the US Government. The Bush administration has already rejected the findings, claiming the UN had refused an invitation to visit Guantanamo Bay. However, the UN says it refused the invitation because the US authorities were refusing to allow any interviews with detainees. The UN DEMANDED? HAH! KISS MY KIESTER KOFI!!!

  14. You guys that are saying they need to interview past detainees are missing one very good point. Most past detainees are in a combat zone shooting at U.S. troops. Yeah, you’ll get a great, unbiased, interview there. That’d mean the U.N. weenies would have to drive through a war.

  15. Nicholas, Never said I would give the UN access to the prisoners. I have only pointed out that when you make a decision like ‘we’re not gonna give the UN full access’, then you live with the consequences. Regardless of how you feel about the UN more broadly, their refusal to come take the dog-and-pony-show tour is a perfectly rational response to our decision not to provide them with full access (a decision that is also perfectly rational, mind you). So my point is that I don’t see that it makes sense to criticize the UN for not coming to take the tour when its a perfectly rational position to take. This is especially true considering there are so many other reasons one could legitimately criticize the UN … don’t pick on one of the few things they do that actually makes sense. 🙂

  16. chuck : I don’t get it. Their choice was simple. Tour the facility and get some information (despite not being able to interview detainees) or not tour it and get no additional information. Why was the decision to get no additional information, when they could have gotten some, the right decision? Did they think the plane tickets would cost too much? If it’s a multi-year report I think they can afford to send a couple of people there even if they don’t find out much. At least they might not make quite as big fools out of themselves as they are. I think it’s only rational if you think they should act as if they have the ability to demand these sort of things, which I’m not sure that they do. I’m glad to hear you have plenty of common sense, but I still disagree with your basic stance. I think this human rights business is very important but I think calling forced feeding of starving people ‘torture’ does not help one little bit. There are still people out there who do proper torture and to dilute the criticism of them is dumb.

  17. Nicholas, – I didn’t say it was the right decision. Its possible that more than one option is ‘perfectly rational’ in any situation. – When trying to appear neutral, some people choose to avoid exposing themselves to propaganda. I’m not taking a position on UN neutrality, mind you, but I imagine they want to try to defend an appearance of neutrality, even when spouting bullshit. – The fact that they may be making fools out of themselves has little if nothing to do with not having toured the facility. Their argument about forced feedings during hunger strikes, for instance, has nothing to do with not having toured the facility. – I didn’t say they had the right to demand access. I didn’t even say it was rational to demand access. I didn’t even say they should have demanded access. (Frankly, it doesn’t sound like they did anything more than request it.) What I said is that its perfectly reasonable for them to take the position that they want full access, or they don’t see a need to come at all. They either want to get both sides (however biased either or both might be) or they want to get neither side. That’s a very reasonable position for an investigator to take. You can’t avoid hearing people’s biases. What you can avoid is only hearing one side’s bias. – As far as your last paragraph, I couldn’t agree more. Frankly, as I read the report one of the few things I actually find reasonable is their decision not to visit Guantanamo unless they would be allowed to have real access. (As an aside, the UN has a broad mandate for human rights oversight, so they may actually have the right to demand access. Without Security Council backing, though, they have no ability to do anything if the demand is ignored, though.)

  18. So the report is out now? I think it’s pretty dodgy publishing news articles about it when people can’t actually read it yet and decide for themselves… I would be happy for the UN to have the ‘right’ to allowed access to such facilities worldwide, as long as they do it in a fair and balanced manner. That is, if they’re going to make a report on human rights in a US holding facility, they should be doing the same thing for French, Iranian, African, Chinese and other countries, and those countries should be forced to give them access too. That way it’s possible to put it into perspective. I think it would be pretty clear in those circumstances who should be most heavily criticised. Otherwise it just seems like a political stunt. By the way Chuck, I wasn’t really aiming my rhetoric at you so much as the authors of the report and the journalists writing about it. It seems we mostly agree.

  19. I mean, look at this.

    In April, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed its first ever resolution on North Korea. The Commission expressed ‘its deep concern about reports of systemic, widespread and grave violations of human rights’.

    That’s the best condemnation of the nasty things the Norks get up to? The wording of the UN report on Gitmo seems to be much stronger to me, and they recommend closing it down. Did anyone recommend closing down the North Korean gulags in a UN report? If so it must not have been very heavily publicised, I didn’t hear about it. They even use the qualifier ‘reports of…’ WRT North Korea, but I didn’t see any such qualifier in the articles about the report on Gitmo. It smacks of double standards to me. I’d say if anybody is really torturing it’s people like the North Koreans, yet the strongest condemnations are of the US. Maybe you can rationalize it by saying that the North Koreans are not going to listen to what the UN has to say about torture, or that the US should be held to a higher standard, but I think this goes too far. I’m happy for the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate Gitmo and even criticise it. But with this report they seem to me to have gone off the deep end. When they can report on human rights abuses in a consistent manner, comparing apples to apples, and using words like torture properly, then maybe I will listen to them. While looking for UN condemnations of North Korean torture (and not finding very many) I also came across this which is interesting. It was written a few years ago and basically says that the UN Human Rights Commission is a joke. Well, they don’t seem to have changed much.