By Richard Waddington
GENEVA (Reuters) – Cuba angrily accused the U.N.’s top human rights body of «double-standards» on Thursday after it rejected Havana’s bid to censure Washington over the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights rejected by 22 votes to 8, with 23 abstentions, a resolution calling for the setting up of a special U.N. investigator for the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
European Union countries on the 53-state commission sided with the United States, saying Washington was already in discussions with existing U.N. investigators about possible visits to the jail, where it is holding over 500 people.
«There is a double-standard in this vote,» said Cuban ambassador Jorge Ivan Mora Godoy.
The resolution «denounces something that international public opinion is already aware of, namely that there are people illegally detained, whose names are unknown and who are victims of abuse and torture,» he told journalists following the vote.
The United States holds suspects in its declared war on terrorism at Guantanamo, with many detainees having been there for more than three years. Washington calls them enemy combatants and says that they are not entitled to the rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
Human rights activists have accused the United States of condemning Guantanamo prisoners to indefinite detention in a «legal black hole,» and note that some former detainees have said they were tortured by U.S. personnel at the base.
«The European Union condemns countries from the South (developing countries), but extends a certificate of impunity to its ally,» said Cuban foreign ministry official Jose Antonio Fernandez.
Last week the commission voted to renew the mandate of the U.N.’s special envoy for Cuba to continue investigating allegations of rights abuse by the communist government.
The United States called the move by Cuba «ironic,» because Havana has itself consistently refused to allow visits by the U.N. envoy, French magistrate Christine Chanet.
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Acknowledging that the situation of prisoners at Guantanamo «raised issues,» U.S. delegate Lino Piedra said that the U.S. judiciary system was already showing its independence in monitoring respect for prisoners’ rights there.
Dutch ambassador Ian de Jong, speaking for the EU, said that the bloc saw no need for a separate investigation because the United States was in discussions with the U.N. about allowing special rights investigators to visit Guantanamo.
Canada abstained in the vote for a similar reason.
Earlier this month, U.S. ambassador at large Pierre-Richard Prosper held talks with U.N. rights investigators, but no decision has yet been announced on the requested visits to Guantanamo, which have been sought since more than a year.
Human rights activists criticized the EU and Canadian stance. «It was still extremely disappointing that the EU voted against it, preferring to defer to Washington’s insistence that it not be condemned,» said Loubna Freih, Geneva director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.
By Richard Waddington