Five United Nations human rights investigators expected to go to our terrorist prison in Cuba to determine if conditions for the prisoners are as humane as the Bush administration claims.
Just before they were about to fly down, they asked if they would indeed be allowed to interview prisoners. In a remarkable reversal of long standing civilized practice the State Department would not let the human rights experts interview the prisoners. The result was a devastating report concluding that America tortures prisoners and isn’t even sure if all the 490 are terrorists. The UN Human Rights Commission called for the immediate closure of the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo.
The administration’s refusal to allow the inspectors to interview prisoners is a stand that only a handful of brutal dictatorships would ever embrace.
Even the Bush administration’s poster boy for top international outlaw, Saddam Hussein, let outsiders see his prisons. In the winter and spring of 1984, I was in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq shooting a documentary on arms merchants and covering the Iran/Iraq war. I wanted to see Iranian prisoners of war. The main reason is that I wanted to confirm rumors that Iran was sending teenagers and old men to fight. (Both were true). I had also heard horrendous tails of Iraqi treatment of prisoners. Saddam’s people had no trouble with me visiting frontline detention centers as well as a behind-the-line prison. The deal we made was that if a prisoner volunteered to talk to me I could interview him. I was surrounded by Saddam’s intelligence goons. They tried to direct me to pre-selected prisoners. But at least I got inside and was permitted to talk to the prisoners who wanted to talk to me. The UN should have been entitled to the same level of treatment Saddam gave me.