UN expert wants Gitmo probe before camp closes


GENEVA — A U.N. human rights expert applauded the Obama administration Tuesday for pledging to turn a page in U.S. history by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, but said the full extent of abuse at the camp needs to be revealed.

“Before a page can be turned, we have to know what’s on it in order to move forward,” said Martin Scheinin, who reports to the United Nations on human rights in the international war on terror.

Scheinin asked to be allowed into the camp to conduct private interviews with the remaining detainees. The Finnish law professor previously visited Guantanamo in 2007 and said interrogation methods used there appeared to violate international law.

U.S. officials said the new administration looked forward to working with Scheinin and other U.N. experts but made no commitment regarding a further visit to the camp.

U.S. President Barack Obama decreed on his second day in office that interrogators can only use techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual to question detainees

“In his statement accompanying the signing of the orders, President Obama pledged that America will confront terrorism ‘in a manner consistent with our values and ideals,'” U.S. charge d’affaires Mark C. Storella told the 47-member rights council.

In a 26-page report presented to the Geneva-based council, Scheinin repeated his criticism of the techniques used at Guantanamo and other U.S. detention centers, as well as the tacit approval given by other nations who sent intelligence agents to observe detainee interrogations.

“The active or passive participation by states in the interrogation of persons held by another state constitutes an intentionally wrongful act if the state knew or ought to have known that the person was facing a real risk of torture,” Scheinin said.

He told reporters afterward that an “intentionally wrongful act” was one that “is in violation of binding norms of international law.”

Britain, which was named in the report as one of the countries to have sent officials to observe U.S.-run interrogations, said it took the allegations it participated in human rights abuses seriously.

Britain’s ambassador Peter Gooderham told the council that his country will investigate and, where appropriate, launch criminal proceedings should British agents have participated in or condoned torture.