Critics from around the world yesterday dismissed US President George W. Bush's defense of using secret CIA prisons overseas to detain terrorist suspects as tacit approval of torture, and demanded they be shut down immediately.
They said Bush's acknowledgment of the program and justification of tough interrogation measures vindicated the worst fears that Washington had gone way too far in the pursuit of its war on terror.
Bush got strong support from Australia, a staunch supporter of his methods, including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But the majority of those who responded to his speech were critical.
"President Bush's speech was a full-throated defense of the CIA's detention program," Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "Although the president adamantly denied that the US government uses torture, the United States has used practices such as waterboarding that can only be called torture."
Lawmakers at the European Parliament, meanwhile, demanded the US give the locations of the secret detention facilities.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said information from one secret prison detainee had led to the arrest of Riduan Isamuddin, a key leader of Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda's alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"A great deal has been achieved through these kinds of programs," Downer told the parliament in Canberra.
Muslim politicians and activists, however, decried Bush's secret prison program and the types of interrogation techniques used.
Asma Jehangir, a senior member of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission, demanded the US end the program immediately and apologize for ever bringing it into existence.
"They have to admit that what they did was wrong," said Jehangir, who heads a UN panel that recently issued a scathing report about the detention of suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"They cannot justify it in the name of terrorism and frightening people," she said.
She noted that Bush had said in his speech that militants were trained to resist interrogation.
"It doesn't mean that you can lower the threshold and start torturing them," she said.
China was also critical.
"China advocates ... that anti-terror efforts should observe the principal of the UN charter and the basic norms governing international relations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) told reporters in Beijing.
Desra Percaya, a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Indonesia, said, "The way we see it, there has to be a respect for human rights and international law even in the context of fighting terrorism," and that Washington had violated both.
In Europe, the head of a European investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe said he believed the timing of Bush's disclosure was politically motivated.
"It probably has to do with the fact that the elections are coming up in the United States," Swiss Senator Dick Marty said.
"President Bush has finally realized that American values are the way to win the war on terror -- the values of true openness, a commitment to having fair trials and not allowing the torture of detainees," said Zachary Katznelson, an attorney who represents 36 of the Guantanamo detainees.
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