Wed, Feb 25, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Pentagon defends Guantanamo conditions

STILL WAITING A report released on Monday said the government needed to move quickly to arrange the transfer of 17 Uighurs who have been cleared of wrongdoing

AFP , WASHINGTON

A Pentagon report has found conditions at the Guantanamo prison to be in line with the Geneva Conventions, but called for the isolation of some inmates to be eased by allowing them more social contact and recreation.

The report also said the government needed to move quickly to help arrange the transfer of a group of Uighurs held at the prison who have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Admiral Patrick Walsh, who presented the review’s findings on Monday, said providing high-security detainees the chance for more social activity was “essential to maintain humane treatment over time.”

“In our opinion, the key to socialization is providing more human-to-human contact; recreation activities with several detainees together; intellectual stimulation and group prayer,” Walsh told a news conference.

The review was met with criticism by rights groups, who cited it as proof that US President Barack Obama had failed to make a clean break with the previous administration on the treatment of “war on terror” suspects.

Guantanamo detainees “continue to be held in inhumane conditions that violate US obligations under [the] Geneva Conventions, the US Constitution and international human rights law,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said.

“The majority of detainees are being held in condition of solitary confinement,” the group said. “Sensory deprivation, environmental manipulation and sleep deprivation are daily realities for these men.”

The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday called the review a “whitewash,” demanding an independent review of the prison.

The Pentagon review of Guantanamo — required as part of an executive order issued by Obama last month mandating the closure of the detention camp — was released as Attorney-General Eric Holder traveled on Monday to Guantanamo to get a first-hand look at the prison.

The review called for swift government action to release a group of 17 Uighurs from China who have been cleared of terror links but remain under detention.

The US government has tried unsuccessfully for several years to arrange the transfer of the Uighurs to a third country, as Washington fears they face the risk of persecution if they return to China.

Human rights groups have urged the government to release the Uighurs within the US to areas where there are Uighur communities.

Also See: MPs vow to probe UK role in Gitmo detention

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