UN official says Gitmo trials unfair

AP | U.S. prosecution of terror suspects at its Guantanamo Bay detention facility fall short of international standards for fair trials, a U.N. rights official said Monday.

U.N. envoy Philip Alston said the tribunals are flawed because of detainees’ limited access to defense attorneys at the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba, as well as rules that allow hearsay and coerced evidence to be presented in court.

“It would violate international law to execute someone following this kind of proceeding,” he said.

Alston is a special rapporteur of the U.N. Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. He concluded a two-week visit to the United States on Monday and presented his conclusions at a news conference in New York.

Seven of the 20 detainees selected for prosecution at Guantanamo so far face possible death sentences if convicted, including a Saudi whom the Pentagon on Monday said will be charged with organizing the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

At a news conference announcing charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, tribunal legal adviser Air Force Brig Gen. Thomas Hartmann said the system ensures fair trials “consistent with American standards of justice.”

Alston also called on the U.S. military to open its files on five detainees who died at Guantanamo. Four were suicide victims, including three who apparently hanged themselves in June 2006. Officials have not released the autopsies or results of investigations into any of the cases.