Amnesty International calls for Guantanamo shutdown

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Location of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

In their annual report on human rights Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan, said "Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time." In this 308-page report, they also called for the United States to shut down the Guantanamo prison.

The report continues the critical analysis of the actions of the U.S. government, but criticism is sharper. The introduction to the report states "The 'war on terror' appeared more effective in eroding international human rights principles than in countering international 'terrorism'."

In calling for changes from the U.S. government, especially regarding Guantanamo Bay, Amnesty International's voice is joined with calls from both the International Red Cross (IRC) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The IRC has said it reported to the U.S. government detainee's reports of desecration of the Qur'an.

The ACLU's Freedom of Information Act requests turned up U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports which echo the IRC's concerns. The documents are purported to show a consistency with reports from detainees of abuse to their religious symbols, as well as reports of beatings and other interrogation methods.

Amnesty International's Secretary General, in her introduction to the report, points to the United State's foreign and military policy as providing a justification for other governments to ignore human rights.

"The USA, as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity," said Irene Khan.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded saying the report's allegations were "ridiculous and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have worked to advance freedom and democracy in the world so that people are governed under a rule of law and that there are... protections in place for minority rights, that women's rights are advanced so that women can fully participate in societies where now they cannot", as well as supporting the fight against AIDS in Africa.

About the allegations of abuse at Guantanamo, which McClellan has previously called isolated incidents, he said, "We hold people accountable when there is abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again, and we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example, and that we do have values that we hold very dearly and believe in."