US Blocks UN From Prison Inspections in Iraq

Official is 'astonished'
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2008 6:06 AM CDT
Manfred Nowak, U.N. Human Rights Commission's special investigator on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, answers journalist's questions during a press conference after...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The US has denied a top UN official access to American prisons in Iraq, drawing condemnation from the torture expert, reports AFP. "I'm astonished that the US government is not willing to grant me access," said the official. Iraqi and British forces have permitted access to their prisons. The US maintains that Iraq is still a combat zone not subject to traditional human rights protections. 

The UN official disagreed, saying that "human rights apply both in times of peace and armed conflict." But he also conceded that there was evidence that prisoner treatment had “improved in reaction to the criticism of the Abu Ghraib events" showing bloodied naked and hooded prisoners. Still, the UN needs unfettered access to prisons, as well as permission to make surprise visits, he said.