By Mark Wachtler
April 1, 2015. Washington. (ONN) American politicians in both the White House and Congress have for decades used the act of denying UN inspectors as grounds for sanctions and even invasion and regime change. But a report out of England accuses the United States of refusing the same UN inspectors access to American prisons. With widespread accusations of torture and secret detentions at domestic black sites in the US, the UN chief inspector has finally gone public. He says he’s had no luck pulling back the American iron curtain and has been getting the run-around from the US State Dept for over two years.
Juan Mendez, chief UN inspector on prisons and torture. Image courtesy of Echo.net.
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It’s safe to say that only the most die-hard party loyalists still believe the United States doesn’t torture people. Whether it’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”, secret CIA torture facilities around the world, pictures from Abu Grab, horror stories from Guantanamo Bay, or even the hundreds of torture victims in Chicago’s own local police precincts - the rest of the world no longer believes America doesn’t torture. In fact, many Americans no longer believe it either.
America bans UN inspectors
One month ago, British newspapers blew the lid off of one of America’s most notorious secret detention facilities. Located on a darkened side street in a nearly-abandoned industrial park on Chicago’s south side is an old factory warehouse long deserted by its old owner. Today, it’s the home of a number of Chicago Police Department special units. And according to victims, police officers often take suspects to the facility for off-the-books interrogations, absent a lawyer, a phone call or even their civil rights. Read a report from our sister publication the Illinois Herald for more details.
Two weeks ago, the top UN inspector for prisons and torture came forward accusing the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department of giving the United Nations the run-around. The administration has refused to allow a single UN inspector into any prisons located inside the United States, or even the CIA’s semi-secret prison in Cuba.
‘The United Nations top investigator on the use of torture has accused Washington of dragging its feet over his requested visits to prisons and refusing to give him access to inmates at Guantánamo,’ the recent report from the Guardian in the UK reported, ‘Juan Mendez said he had been waiting for more than two years for the United States to provide him access to a range of state and federal prisons.’
Is the United States hiding something?
That was the question that the Guardian, the ACLU, and the United Nations asked two weeks ago. According to the report, ‘Mendez told reporters in Geneva he wanted to visit federal prisons in New York and Colorado and state prisons in New York, California and Louisiana, among others. He said the US State Department had been working to help him gain access to the state prisons, but after two years of discussions he had yet to receive a positive answer.’
The publication quotes the ACLU’s head of human rights Jamil Dakwar who wrote an op-ed piece for AFP in which he says, “It’s simply outrageous that it’s taking such a long time to provide access to American detention facilities…This begs the question: is the United States hiding something?”
UN inspector Juan Mendez told reporters that he is most curious about America’s use of solitary confinement. He says it is not rare for American prisoners to spend 25 to 30 years in solitary confinement. And according to numbers provided by the ACLU, there are 80,000 American citizens being held in solitary on any given day. Many of them, the United Nations points out, are American children.
The Guardian quotes UN inspector Mendez saying, ‘Solitary confinement for children “should never happen, even for a single day.” He said the punishment, widely considered cruel even for adults, was “particularly harmful for children because of their state of development and their special needs”.’
America’s police state
While the treatment of America’s prison population is hidden behind a veil of state secrecy, the statistics are not. Ever since the US became the number one nation on Earth for imprisoning its own citizens, some have concluded that Americans are either the most evil, wicked people in the world or America is a police state. Based on the numbers, at least one of those has to be true.
Consider the fact that the United States has the highest per capita imprisonment rate in the world. It also has the highest incarceration rate of women. According to numbers provided by the International Centre for Prison Studies, here are the prison rates for every 100,000 citizens:
Coming in further down the list were countries of interest like Iran and South Africa tied for 34th, Israel at 51st, Mexico 64th, Poland 69th, Venezuela 86th, Saudi Arabia 90th, United Kingdom 97th, Australia 104th, Iraq 116th, China 124th, Canada 129th, France 147th, and Egypt and Germany tied for 168th. *The ICPS report lists Seychelles 1st and the US 2nd. However Seychelles’ total population is less than the survey’s base number of 100,000.