White House to UN: Guantanamo 'fully within the boundaries of American law'

[JURIST] The White House Friday responded to a report [PDF text; JURIST report] by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) [official website] calling on the US to shut down its Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detention facility by reinterating President Bush's statement [JURIST report] that he hopes to close it at some point, and insisting that "everything that is done in terms of questioning detainees is fully within the boundaries of American law." Press Secretary Tony Snow [BBC profile] incidentally chided the Geneva-based committee by adding "the United States government had on a number of occasions invited this UN panel to go down to Guantanamo. They chose not to do so...", an apparent reference to the decision last year of UN rights rapporteurs not to visit the prison [JURIST report] after being told they would not be allowed to interview detainees [JURIST report]. Read the full text of Friday's White House "press gaggle" here.

The US appeared before the CAT for the first time in six years earlier this month. US Department of State legal adviser John Bellinger [official profile] informed the panel that US intelligence agencies internal policies follow the law under the consultation of the US Justice Department, and specifically follow the Detainee Treatment Act [JURIST document]. The panel's report on its annual review [JURIST report] of US compliance with the Convention Against Torture [text], released earlier Friday, said Guantanamo should be shut down, the US should disclose the locations of alleged secret prisons connected with the practice of extraordinary rendition, and expressed concern that the US has denied the International Committee of the Red Cross access to terror detainees held in secret locations.

7:55 PM ET - In a related development, Bellinger told reporters at the State Department Friday:

we are disappointed that despite the fact that the committee acknowledges the extensive materials that we gave to them, that they don't seem to have relied on information that we gave to them in preparing their report... In many ways, it appears that the report was written without the benefit of the materials, the information that we gave them, and, in fact, they seem to have ignored a good deal of the information that we did give to them.... [As a result there are] numerous errors of fact, just simply things that they've got wrong about what the U.S. law or practice is.

The committee also seems to have stretched in a number of areas to address issues that are well outside its mandate and outside the scope of the Convention Against Torture... We know these issues are out there. These are issues that you've all heard before. But we did not think that it's in the scope of this particular committee to go try to address every issue relating to detainees or Guantanamo and try to somehow squeeze it into the mandate of the Convention Against Torture.
The US State Department has more. Read a full transcript of Bellinger's briefing.

 

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