Opponents of the US policy of detaining terrorism suspects without giving them access to legal counsel urged the US to follow up its release of five Britons with the return of all the estimated 660 people detained at the US Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba to their home countries.
British actor Corin Redgrave, co-founder of the Guantanamo Human Rights Commission, came to the UN Wednesday with relatives of three detainees to demand justice for all those being held, a day after the US sent five British detainees home from the US military's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. One was released immediately by British authorities and the other four were freed late Wednesday.
The US Supreme Court will hear arguments next month from lawyers representing foreign-born "enemy combatants" being held incommunicado in open-ended custody at Guantanamo Bay. At issue is whether the prisoners can challenge their detention in US courts.
US Attorney General John Ashcroft said that designating the detainees as enemy combatants "is a vital part of the war on terrorism," that the Supreme Court should reaffirm.
Redgrave, the relatives and Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, a civil liberties legal group that represents several detainees in the Supreme Court case, want immediate action -- and the closure of the Guantanamo military prison.
"It is a total denial of human rights," Redgrave said of the US policy.
"Our message is therefore very clear: Every detainee in Guantanamo must be repatriated forthwith to their countries," Redgrave said.
If there is evidence, the detainee should be tried in a proper court with due process and punished if found guilty, he said, but if there is no evidence he should be freed.
"We are very, very, confident that ... they will be free," Redgrave said.
Ratner said US President George W. Bush's administration appeared to be playing favorites by releasing detainees from countries that have supported the US in Iraq and elsewhere, like Britain.
"Those who are friends of the US" are getting out, but the French, "because of their position in the war, got nobody out," he said.
US officials have said they have wide legal latitude to interrogate the detainees for an extended period since national security is at risk.
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