The White House has dismissed a UN report that calls for the closure of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters yesterday that investigators who prepared the document discredited the United Nations by reporting allegations made by detainees without, as he put it, divulging into the facts.

The UN report, issued earlier in the day, said that the US government is violating prisoners' rights to a fair trial and recommended that the U.S. either try or release all detainees. The report also said treatment meted out to the prisoners in some instances amounted to torture.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has endorsed the call for giving prisoners a fair trial, adding that sooner or later there will be a need for the prison to close.

McClellan said first of all, the U.N. team that was looking into this issue did not even visit Guantanamo Bay. They did not go down and see the facilities. They were offered the same kind of access that Congressional leaders, who are responsible for oversight of these matters, have been provided. Yet, they declined to go down there.

''What we are seeing is a rehash of allegations that have been made by lawyers representing some of these detainees.We know that these are dangerous terrorists that are being kept at Guantanamo Bay. They are people that are determined to harm innocent civilians, or harm innocent Americans.'' They were enemy combatants picked up on the battlefield in the war on terrorism. They are trained to provide false information. And al Qaeda training manuals talk about ways to disseminate false information and hope to get attention, he said.

The White House spokesman said the International Committee for the Red Cross was provided full access to the detainees. The military treats detainees humanely, as directed by the President of the United States. And the United Nations should be making serious investigations across the world, and there are many instances when they do, when it comes to human rights. This was not one of them. And I think it's a discredit to the U.N. when a team like this goes about rushing to report something when they haven't even looked into the facts. All they have done is look at the allegations.

Meanwhile the European Parliament (the European Union's legislative body) passed a non-binding resolution on Thursday calling for the prison to shut down. Five independent investigators wrote the report for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, based on interviews with former detainees and lawyers, media and N.G.O.

(non-governmental organization) reports, and declassified U.S. government documents.

U.N. investigators said they rejected a U.S. invitation to visit Guantanamo Bay because they would not have had unrestricted access to detainees.

About 500 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

The U.N. report also says the acts of force-feeding hunger strikers and subjecting inmates to prolonged solitary confinement violate prisoners' rights.

[Source: India News, Washington, 17Feb06]

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