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Guantanamo prison has served its time
Allies are calling on President Bush to close the detention facility whose policies and practices have brought years of international criticism.

The chorus is growing louder for shutting the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Gitmo holds more than 500 men captured in Afghanistan and Iraq, and last week an important United Nations agency urged President Bush to close the facility and stop the indefinite detentions there.

The debacle at Guantanamo is a prime example of the kinds of predicaments the White House has managed to create by ignoring American precedents and international conventions in setting detention policies in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Still, in what may a hopeful sign, President Bush recently signaled that he, too, would like to close Guantanamo but is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether the inmates can be tried by military tribunals.

Since 2002, the U.S. incarcerated 800 captives suspected of terrorist links to al-Qaeda at Gitmo. About 180 have been freed and 80 turned over to the custody of other countries, including Britain, Australia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Certainly some prisoners are bona fide terrorists and will be dangerous for decades to come. But others aren't, and they should be let go. Indeed, they should have been winnowed out long ago.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture's report that indefinite detention of terror suspects violates the international ban on torture further tarnishes this country's reputation, already badly damaged by the Abu Ghraib torture images. The U.N. committee alleged that prisoners have been tortured in calling for closing Guatanamo Bay.

Like Abu Ghraib, Gitmo has such a negative connotation that it's imperative that it be closed as soon as possible. This is one of those cases where even your best friends will tell you. Staunch ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in March that Guantanamo should close. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even while moving to thaw U.S.-German relations, went on TV the night before visiting President Bush to call for closing Gitmo. Bush seems to have softened his views since then.

The State Department reacted to the U.N. report by claiming there were inaccuracies and challenging assertions that Guantanamo violated the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture and that detainees lack access to courts.

Once the high court rules on the question of whether the detainees can be tried before military commissions, the administration should expeditiously try detainees suspected of crimes and release any cleared of wrongdoing. It also should find a place other than Guantanamo for the really bad actors, and then treat them in accordance with international standards.

67 Pakistanis in Guantanamo jail
Source ::: Agencies

WASHINGTON There are 67 Pakistanis on a Pentagon list of all the detainees who have been or are being held at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The list contains the names and nationalities of 759 people who have been held under the US Department of Defence control since the jail opened in January 2002. One name, that of Saifullah Paracha, a 58-year-old Pakistani citizen, shows that the list also includes prisoners detained by other agencies, such as CIA, after 9/11. Most of the 67 Pakistanis on the list were apprehended by the same Afghan commanders they went to help and were handed over to US authorities. Pentagon issued an initial list of 558 names on April 19, which detailed the detainees who went through a military hearing process instigated in 2004. The additional 201 names on the new list are detainees who were moved out of Guantanamo before the military hearings began. The US military now holds about 480 detainees at Guantanamo after a series of releases and transfers that began in October 2002, nearly 10 months after the detention center opened. An additional 136 detainees have been approved for transfer or release, but the timing depends on when their home countries agree to accept them.

Guantanamo, Target of World Criticism, Seems Set for Long Life
May 23 (Bloomberg) -- They're settling in for the long haul at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Even as U.S. officials including President George W. Bush say they want to close it, work is almost finished on a $30 million state-of-the-art detention facility. More than 3,000 additional books are on their way to the library to help the 480 captured "enemy combatants" in the war on terrorism endure what may be an indefinite stay.

"We will stay here and do our mission and do it well until we no longer have a mission," U.S. Army Brigadier General Edward Leacock, the deputy commander of the detention operation, said in an interview this month at his headquarters on the 45-square-mile naval base the U.S. has leased from Cuba since 1903.

Guantanamo presents the Bush administration with a military and legal quandary. The war-crimes trials the military plans to hold for some detainees may be halted by the U.S. Supreme Court, while the release of other prisoners is being stymied by concern that they may be tortured by their governments or resume terrorist activities.

"No one would like to shut down Guantanamo more than this administration," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 21. The problem, she said, is what to do "with the hundreds of dangerous people there who were caught on the battlefield, who are known to have connections, who regularly say that, if they're released, they're going to go back to killing Americans."

Lightning Rod

Guantanamo has been a lightning rod for controversy since it opened in January 2002 to hold those described by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the "worst of the worst." Called a "gulag" by Amnesty International, the human-rights organization, the camp has been criticized for holding detainees under inhumane conditions outside the protections of U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war.

Last week, the United Nations called for Guantanamo to be closed, following similar appeals by the U.K.'s attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Leacock said he has no desire to keep the camp open either. "My goal, and the U.S. policy, is to hold no one here any longer than we have to," he said.

Procedures are in place to trim the detainee population, Leacock said. Of the 750 prisoners who have been held at Guantanamo, he said more than 250 have been released to their countries of origin, and 140 others may be in coming months.

Military Tribunals

Of the more than 300 detainees who will remain, 10 have so far been charged with war crimes by a military tribunal, and about "two dozen others" will be similarly tried, he said.

The tribunals, in which the prosecutors, defense attorneys and juries are military officers, may be stopped before the first is even completed. The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule in June on the legality of the tribunals, which were established by Bush's executive order in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and have been challenged by legal and human-rights groups.

It's the detainees who haven't been charged with crimes, about 300, who may pose the greatest legal and logistical problems to eventually closing the camp. They are subject to an annual review by a military panel known as the Administrative Review Board that assesses whether to continue holding them based on two criteria: their intelligence value and the threat they pose.

Some of these detainees may never be charged, yet may remain in detention for a long time, said Captain Tom Quinn, the U.S. Navy officer in charge of the review boards.

High Threat

"There are some folks who have a threat value that's so high or an intelligence value that's so high that even though they didn't commit a war crime, we cannot afford to take the risk to let them go," Quinn said.

Leacock said "about 15" of the detainees who have been released "have gone back to the fight," including "one who won't be coming back because he was shot and killed on the battlefield."

Guantanamo officials say conditions have improved vastly since the opening of the first detention facility, Camp X-Ray, in 2002. That unit -- which achieved worldwide notoriety for images of its open-air cages and bound detainees kneeling in dust -- was only open for four months.

Critics have focused on the interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration, some of which were banned by the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 sponsored by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war in Vietnam.

`Cruel Treatment'

Alberto Mora, a former U.S. Navy general counsel who in 2004 fought to prevent the government from adopting aggressive interrogation techniques, said yesterday that "cruel treatment" was used at Guantanamo.

The "inescapable truth is that, no matter how circumscribed these policies were or how short their duration, or how few the victims, for as long as these policies were in effect our government had adopted what only can be labeled as a policy of cruelty," Mora said in a speech accepting the Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

Since the closing of Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo detainees, who range in age from 20 to 71, have been dispersed in a network of five facilities called Camp Delta, where they are held according to their degree of cooperation with interrogators and "compliance" with camp rules.

Camp Five, which houses about 100 of those deemed "high- value," least "compliant" and most dangerous, is a concrete structure modeled on a maximum-security facility in Peru, Indiana. Detainees are held in single cells, allowed no interaction with each other and given only short, solitary exercise periods. The $30 million structure scheduled for completion this summer, a medium-security facility, will be Camp Six.

Camp Four

The largest group of inmates, more than a third of the total, is housed in Camp Four, which features 10-bed dormitory- style rooms. These inmates are allowed to roam the camp at will, eat together and have free access to library books.

Camp officials say most of the detainees, who come from 40 countries and speak dozens of languages, have learned English through speaking to the guards and reading. The Harry Potter books, they say, are the most-requested volumes from the library.

Officials say the guards take particular pains to show respect for detainees' religious practices, particularly since allegations of mishandling of the Koran were published by Newsweek magazine last year, setting off deadly riots in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world. The call to prayer is broadcast throughout the camp five times a day and arrows pointing toward Mecca are painted on bunks and on the ground.

Detainee Threats

Despite the improvements, two guards at Camp Delta -- who declined to give their names for fear of retribution against them or their families by the captives -- said the detainees frequently threatened them, spat at them or pelted them with feces or urine.

So far, there have been 23 suicide attempts at Guantanamo. Three detainees have been on hunger strikes for up to 250 days and are being force-fed through tubes.

Last week, 10 inmates in Camp Four clashed with guards who intervened to prevent a "ruse" suicide attempt in the most violent uprising yet at the detention facility, according to Navy Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris. Prisoners used light fixtures, fan blades and pieces of metal to attack 10 guards who entered a communal cell to stop a detainee who appeared to be preparing to hang himself using bed sheets, Harris told reporters on a conference call.

No detainees have been sent to Guantanamo since 2004, and Leacock and other military officials said it is unlikely any new inmates will be sent there because permanent prisons have been erected in Afghanistan and Iraq. On May 8, Bush said on German television that he would "like to close the camp and put the prisoners on trial."

For now, Leacock says, his orders are to keep the camp up and running. "When the president orders me to put the `Closed' sign on the door, I will put it up," he said.

Riot at Guantanamo Bay detention camp
May 20, 2006 

A detainee is escorted to a medium security facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Inmates at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba have attacked guards with fan blades and other makeshift weapons. Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo says some detainees were injured in "the most violent outbreak" at the facility since it was opened in 2002.

Officers fired rubber bullets at the detainees after the guards were attacked with "broken light fixtures, fan blades" and other improvised weapons. Rear Admiral Harris says "minimum force was used to quell the disturbance".

The New York Times reports that Thursday's disturbance was quelled by a riot-control unit with batons and shields. Another episode involved two other groups of inmates who tore apart their quarters and attacked guards.

Military officials said the detainees' actions were designed to draw attention to the plight of the terror suspects detained indefinitely in "Gitmo". Rear Admiral Harris, said that a prisoner was pretending to hang himself to lure the guards into the room. "The detainees had slickened the floor of their block with faeces, urine and soapy water in an attempt to trick the guards," he said. "They then assaulted the guards with broken light fixtures, fan blades and bits of metal."

The guards used pepper spray and blasted the detainees with several shots from a shotgun, firing rubber balls during the five-minute fight. No guards were hurt, but six inmates were treated for "minor injuries," he said.

Colonel Mike Bumgarner said guards shot five rounds of "nonlethal" pellets from a 12-gauge shotgun, and a rubber grenade from an M-203 launcher. He said rioting then broke out in two other blocks of Camp Four when around 50 detainees damaged their quarters and made weapons to attack the guards. Colonel Bumgarner said it took an hour to bring the disturbances were under control. He says the six detainees received minor injuries.

A military spokesman said 60 of the detainees were later transferred to more secure areas of the camp. Colonel Bumgarner says "detainees were jumping out of the beds on top of the guards" and some guards were knocked to the floor. "Frankly we were losing the fight at that point," he said. "This illustrates to me the dangerous nature of the men we have detained here," Rear Admiral Harris told reporters in a teleconference.

M203 grenade launcher

Earlier in the day, two other detainees attempted suicide by overdosing on hoarded prescription drugs. Guantanamo officials said there have been 41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees and no deaths since the camp opened in January 2002. Defense lawyers contend the figure is higher.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has called on the United States to shut down Guantanamo and close any other "secret prisons" it operates. The UN declared the indefinite detention of suspects without charge a "violation of the UN Convention Against Torture."

"The State party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible," the committee said. They called on the US to "ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control".

Fifteen Guantanamo Saudis freed
Fifteen Saudi Arabians have arrived home after being released from the United States military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Relatives of the freed men gathered at Riyadh airport to meet them.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said an understanding had been reached with the Saudi government over their release.

About 460 detainees are held at Guantanamo, which opened after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Detainees are being held without charge or trial.

Mr McCormack said: "We were able to assure ourselves that if these people were returned to Saudi Arabia that they wouldn't be tortured and they would be treated humanely."

Trials

Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the kingdom was trying to secure the release and return of the remaining Saudi detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

He said that the 15 men "will be made subject to the country's laws", comments that suggest the men may be put on trial.

Eight Saudis have previously been released from Guantanamo Bay, but jailed back home.

At least five of them were freed by Saudi Arabia last year after they completed their jail terms.

It is believed that about 100 of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are Saudi nationals.

Family members of the returnees gathered at King Khaled airport to meet the plane, while reporters were kept away from the scene.

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