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UN torture investigator rejects US terms of Gitmo invite

Geneva: A UN torture investigator has accused the US of stalling on his requests to visit its prisons and rejected the terms under which that country has invited him to access the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

Juan E Mendez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, also said that America has denied him access to federal prisons.

“My (Mendez) request to the US to visit the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay on conditions that I can accept, and my request to visit prisons on the US mainland is still pending,” as per the annual report on torture that was presented to the Human Rights Council.

“On Guantanamo, they invited me in 2012 but under exact conditions offered to my predecessors and three others of the special procedures from 2004 but those conditions are unacceptable to us,” Mendez said yesterday.

But, Mendez said he wanted America to reconsider restrictions, including allowing him unmonitored conversations with the inmates.

“The invitation is to get a briefing from the authorities and to visit some parts of the prison but not all and specifically I am not allowed to have unmonitored or even monitored conversations with any inmate in Guantanamo Bay,” he said, citing reasons for declining the offer of Guantanamo visit.

The Special Rapporteur expressed his interest to assess the issue of solitary confinement in the US. “Particularly, I want to visit maximum security prison and at the federal level I want to go to ADX in Florence in Colarado, the Manhattan Correctional Center, but also state prisons in California, New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania,” he said.

“In my last conversations [with the US] they said that the federal prisons are unavailable,” Mendez said.

He said, “it is an estimate but an estimate that has not been refuted at least and one that I have been using is about 80,000 persons are in solitary confinement at any given moment in the US.”

In his annual report, apart from the US, the Special Rapporteur mentions India, Pakistan, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and few others countries as those who have been “unresponsive” for requests of country visits in the last two years or more.

“In the case of India, we have been asking to go to India last 25 years and repeating our requests. We get no answer whatsoever.”

Referring to three cases from India that came last year, Mendez said, “This is not representative of a large country like India but these are the cases I have worked on. It is important that I make a visit to India before the end of my term, and make more general comments on the country.”

“I am willing to receive information from the government or civil society,” the UN investigator added.

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