U.N. Says Human Rights Violators Cite U.S.

By Nick Wadhams
Associated Press
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 23 -- Several governments around the world have tried to rebut criticism of how they handle detainees by claiming they are only following the U.S. example in fighting terrorism, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture said Monday.

Manfred Nowak said that when he criticizes governments for their questionable treatment of detainees, they respond by telling him that if the United States does something, it must be all right. He would not name any countries except Jordan.

"The United States has been the pioneer . . . of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak said at a news conference. "Today, many other governments are kind of saying: 'But why are you criticizing us? We are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.' "

Nowak said that because of its prominence, the United States has a greater responsibility to uphold international standards for its prisoners.

State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said Monday night that he had not seen Nowak's comments and had no response.

Nowak has chastised the United States over detainee policy and for maintaining secret prisons.

Nonetheless, he said, the United States had improved its handling of detainees, particularly in Iraq after the Abu Ghraib scandal. Nowak said the big problem in Iraq now is allegations of detainee torture by militias and the country's Interior Ministry.

He said detainees were afraid of being transferred from the control of multinational forces to Iraqi prisons.

"They would prefer, if they are in detention now, to be in the international detention facilities rather than the Iraqi detention facilities," Nowak said.

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