Abid Aslam / OneWorld.net – 2006-02-10 23:04:27
(February 6, 2006) — Detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp ”are being condemned to a life of emotional and physical suffering and torment” that goes on even after they are released, Amnesty International said. ”Thousands” have thus been afflicted, Amnesty added in a report issued late Sunday.
The rights watchdog renewed its demand that the US government shut down the detention center and try or release prisoners held there.
President George W. Bush said last month that ”Guantanamo is a necessary part of protecting the American people. And so long as the war on terror goes on, and so long as there’s a threat, we will inevitably need to hold people that would do ourselves harm.”
Amnesty, in its report, said about 500 men from some 35 countries were being held at the US naval station in Cuba. Courts have reviewed the detentions of ”only a couple,” it added.
The document, containing testimonies from former detainees and their relatives, set out to show that ”once a person is picked up and labeled an ‘enemy combatant’ by the United States, his life becomes one of constant torment and stigma,” Amnesty said in a statement accompanying the report.
”This terror does not end when the man is released and sent back to his home country,” it added.
The group quoted Nina Odizheva, mother of former Russian Guantanamo detainee Ruslan Odizheva, as saying of her son’s tie in US detention: ”It changed him…he is completely ill…he lives on pills for all his major organs…he tries not to show it or tell me details so I don’t get upset…he has no appetite…he is a different person now.”
Amnesty said it also found that ”many former detainees, even when reunited with their families, continue to be harassed, arbitrarily arrested and ill-treated by their own government.”
The organization also renewed its call for Congress to set up an independent, public investigation of alleged abuse of prisoners in US-controlled official and covert detention centers around the world.
As a first step, it demanded that the US government publish a list of all detainees held at Guantanamo and elsewhere under President George W. Bush’s self-styled ”war on terror.”
Guantanamo opened in January 2002. Many of its detainees–captured after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the ensuing US-led war in Afghanistan–have remained in captivity for years without facing formal charges or being brought to trial.
Of the detainees still at Guantanamo, at least nine remain locked up even though US authorities no longer label them as enemy combatants, according to Amnesty.
”If someone is no longer considered an enemy combatant, either he was erroneously detained in the first place or he has undergone a miraculous conversion. In either case, he will never be free from the stigma of being labeled a terrorist. Moreover, the lives of the detainees’ families frequently spiral down into financial and emotional devastation,” said William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
”The denial of due process we have witnessed at Guantanamo Bay violates fundamental human rights law, to say nothing of our highest values as a nation,” Schulz added.
”The Bush administration cannot simply ignore the consequences of its actions on innocent family members around the world,” he said. ”It cannot continue to hold people indefinitely without meaningful legal recourse or due process. Either charge these men with recognizable criminal offenses and try them in an established court or release them immediately.”
Late last month, a federal judge in New York ordered the US government to release the names and nationalities of hundreds of Guantanamo detainees in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Associated Press.
The ruling came despite objections from the Bush administration, which first said that doing so would violate detainees’ privacy and then added that revealing detainees’ identities could put the prisoners’ families and friends at risk of embarrassment and retaliation. The government was expected to appeal.
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