European human rights body condemns U.S. "torture" at Guantanamo Bay

Thursday, April 28, 2005 Lawmakers from 46 European countries meeting in Strasbourg, France asked the Bush administration on Tuesday “to cease torturing and mistreating detainees” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Europe's 50+-year old human rights body, the Council of Europe, openly condemned the United States Tuesday for using what it termed "torture", and asked European countries not to cooperate in interrogating Guantanamo detainees.

A spokesman for the Pentagon responded that they run "a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo."

"The circumstances surrounding detentions by the USA at Guantanamo Bay show unlawfulness on grounds including the torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees," said the resolution adopted by the Council's Parliamentary Assembly, reported in the Associated Press. The body, confusingly named but not related to the European Parliament, affirmed its support for the United States in the fight against terrorism, but said that the US government "betrayed its own highest principles in the zeal with which it has attempted to pursue the war on terror."

The US government has denied using torture at the base, but human rights council member Boris Oliynik said; "What we see in Guantanamo has nothing to do with justice, the conditions there are medieval."

International Committee of the Red Cross

The ICRC has been monitoring conditions for detainees at Guantanamo and over 2,000 other places worldwide since 2002. On November 30, 2004, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a press release stating that their policy is that they will neither confirm or deny a widely-repeated report by the New York Times last November 30 about their findings in Guantanamo.The Times report by Neil A. Lewis reads in part; "The International Committee of the Red Cross has charged in confidential reports to the United States government that the American military has intentionally used psychological and sometimes physical coercion 'tantamount to torture' on prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba."

The ICRC policy is to address questions of possible abuse to the relevant government authorities, in this case the Office of Detainee Affairs which was set up by the US Department of Defense. According to the ICRC press release, their adherence to this policy made "it possible for the ICRC to have repeated and regular access to those held at Guantanamo Bay and to speak with them in private."

The ICRC continues to monitor detainees at Guantanamo and deliver messages from them to their families.