Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Guantanamo prison ‘humane’: US military report

GENEVA CONVENTIONS The report said the camp’s treatment of inmates, including force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike, did not violate the Geneva guidelines


The US Department of Defense said the Guantanamo Bay prison meets the standard for humane treatment dictated by the Geneva Conventions, a report prepared for President Barack Obama said.

Obama has ordered the detention center for terror suspects closed within a year.

The report recommended some changes, including an increase in group recreation for some of the camp’s more dangerous or less compliant prisoners, a government official familiar with the study said.

The report also suggested allowing those prisoners to gather in groups of three or more, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not been released officially.

Some of the hardcore prisoners are not allowed to meet other prisoners for prayer or socialization and are kept in their cells 23 hours a day. Alleged Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind Khaled Sheik Mohammed is among the prisoners who could be affected by the change.

Prolonged social isolation has been known to harm mental health among prisoners.

The 85-page report by Admiral Patrick Walsh, the Navy’s second in command, was written in response to Obama’s Jan. 22 executive order to close the facility at Guantanamo Bay within a year.

Attorney General Eric Holder named a top federal prosecutor, Matthew Olsen, on Friday as executive director of Obama’s Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force. The panel will recommend where to send each detainee. Obama has ordered the task force to consider whether to transfer, release or prosecute the detainees, or figure out some other “lawful means for disposition” if none of those options were available.

As a presidential candidate, Obama criticized the detention center that human rights groups and many people throughout the world widely condemned for harsh treatment of prisoners during the former George W. Bush administration. The military has defended its actions, saying prisoners have been treated humanely since the center was set up after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the US.

The report found the camp to be in compliance with the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3, the international rules that require the humane treatment of prisoners taken in unconventional armed conflicts. The camp’s controversial force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strikes also was found to be compliant with the Geneva guidelines, a second government official said.

Last month, the military judge appointed to decide whether to charge Guantanamo detainees with crimes told the Washington Post at least one of the prisoners was tortured in 2002 and 2003, alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Mohammed al-Qahtani.

About 800 prisoners have been held there, many for years and nearly all without being charged officially with a criminal act.

About 250 are there now, including 17 from China whom the US wants to set free, but who cannot return to China for fear they will be mistreated by Beijing.

Guantanamo was selected for legal reasons: as a military base, it is sovereign US territory, but, according to the Bush administration interpretation, it was outside the scope of the US Constitution because it was not on US soil. That would allow prisoners to be prosecuted for war crimes using evidence that would be difficult or impossible to use in the US civilian court system.

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