News Briefs – October 19, 2016

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UN torture expert: No visit to Guantanamo before terms ends

The U.N.’s special representative on torture expects he will end his six-year term without visiting the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Juan Mendez said Oct. 18 that he was invited to visit Guantanamo in 2012 but on conditions that he could not accept. He said he has been unable to appeal those terms.
“The terms that I was offered was basically a tour of parts of the facility, but not all. A briefing by the authorities but specifically that I could not talk to any inmate there. So I’m insisting that that’s a non-starter,” Mendez said.
In the continental U.S., only New York City’s Rikers Island prison allowed him to visit on his terms.
Mendez, who was tortured during Argentina’s military dictatorship, ends his term on Oct. 31 when he will be replaced by Nils Melzer of Switzerland. AP
 

U.S. warship to visit New Zealand and end 30-year stalemate

A U.S. Navy warship will visit New Zealand next month for the first time since the 1980s, ending a 30-year-old military stalemate between the countries that was triggered when New Zealand banned nuclear warships.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced Oct. 18 that he has given clearance for the destroyer USS Sampson to visit during celebrations of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary.
The visit marks a continued thaw in military relations, which turned frosty when New Zealand enacted its nuclear-free policy in the mid-1980s.
The policy prevents ships that have nuclear weapons or are nuclear powered from visiting. Because the U.S. won’t officially confirm or deny if its ships have nuclear capabilities, New Zealand imposed a blanket ban on U.S. ships.
But Key said he’d taken advice from his own officials and was “100 percent confident” the USS Sampson wasn’t nuclear powered or carrying nuclear weapons.
The dispute began in 1985 when the New Zealand government refused to allow a U.S. destroyer to visit. The U.S. responded by downgrading its military ties. New Zealand passed its nuclear-free law in 1987.
The relationship improved after 2001, said Rear Adm. John Martin, the chief of the New Zealand Navy, when New Zealand agreed to send special forces and later a reconstruction team to Afghanistan. The U.S. and New Zealand signed defense agreements in 2010 and 2012. AP