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U.S. Official Defends Not Letting UN Into Guantanamo

A prisoner at Guantanamo (file photo) (AFP) 1 November 2005 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defended the U.S. government's decision not to permit United Nations human rights investigators to meet privately with detained terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Last week, the Defense Department invited three UN experts to visit the detention facilities in Cuba. But one investigator, Manfred Nowak, said the team will decline the invitation -- which came after more than three years of requests -- because they did not receive permission to interview prisoners.

Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference that it is not appropriate to give UN investigators the same access at Guantanamo that has been granted to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has met several times with Guantanamo prisoners.

He said the decision not to provide full access to the UN officials was made not by the Pentagon, but by the U.S. government: "This is a government decision, a matter of policy as to what extent they want to open that aperture and allow any number of additional organizations that exist in the world to do that. Apparently the United States government's made a decision -- not the Pentagon, but the government has made a decision that they think that having the (International Committee of the Red Cross) do that is the appropriate thing. And so that's that."

Earlier today, an attorney for a Guantanamo detainee from Bahrain, Muhammad al-Dossary, said the man tried to kill himself last month after nearly two years of solitary confinement.