Governments say they follow U.S. on jail treatment
Evelyn Leopold / Reuters | October 26 2006
Some countries try to refute criticism over their treatment of prisoners by saying they are only following the U.S. example on handling terror suspects, a U.N. human rights expert said on Monday.
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator on torture, told a news conference that "all too frequently" governments respond to criticism about their jails by saying they handled detainees the same way the United States did.
"The United States has been the pioneer of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak said. "Today, other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.'"
He said nations like Jordan tell him, "We are collaborating with the United States so it can't be wrong if it is also done by the United States."
Nowak, along with other U.N. human rights officials, has criticized U.S. policies against terror suspects, including secret jails, harsh treatment and the lack of due process. He turned down a visit to Guantanamo Bay because he could not interview detainees and prison officials in private.
He has argued that if there is evidence against detainees, after years in jail, it should be presented to the usually "efficient" and fair civilian courts rather than military tribunals.
Nowak, an Austrian law professor, said the new U.S. law adopted earlier this month, which outlaws rape and most forms of torture, still allows harsh interrogation methods rights advocates say border on torture. And it does not permit appeals in U.S. federal court.
But he acknowledged U.S. difficulties in closing Guantanamo, saying other countries were refusing to accept prisoners and that Washington did not want to send them to countries where torture was certain. In Europe to date, only Albania has offered to accept them.
In Iraq, however, Nowak said there were improvements in U.S.-run jails and those of its allies following the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib. But now prisoners say jails run by Baghdad's Interior Ministry and militia are brutal.
"They would prefer if they are in detention to be in the international detention facilities rather than the Iraqi detention facilities," he said.
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