by RAY FLEMING
WASHINGTON will not welcome the report of the United Nations Committee on Torture delivered yesterday. The Bush administration does not like criticism from any quarter, least of all from the UN. However, the Committee does not really go beyond the widespread criticism of US policies since 9/11 that has been heard from other governments and non-governmental organisations concerned with human rights. The Committee's recommendation that Guantanamo Bay should be closed has been voiced from many quarters including, only last week, Britain's Attorney General. The 11-page report says that the US should register all those it detains, ensure that no one is held in secret, eradicate torture and ill-treatment, refrain from sending suspects to countries where torture is practised, enact a federal crime of torture and broaden the definition of acts of psychological torture. When American officials appeared before the Committee they argued that the US is engaged in a long term war and that some aspects of the Geneva Convention on torture may not apply. The Committee rejected this, saying that the total ban on torture applies in time of peace, war or armed conflict and that anyone violating the Convention should be prosecuted. The US government has been given one year in which to respond to the Committee's recommendations, which are not binding. Its response is predictable but the Committee's work has been worthwhile, setting down authoritatively the unacceptability of many measures taken by the United States in the past five years.
by RAY FLEMING