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U.S.: No rights groups at tribunals

Miami Herald, via the Kansas City Star, USA
Feb. 25, 2004
Frank Davies, Miami Herald
www.kansascity.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday February 25, 2004

The Pentagon tells human-rights groups they will not be allowed to monitor the military trials of terrorist suspects held at Guantnamo because of `seating and logistics.’

WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense has rejected a request from three human-rights organizations to monitor any military trials of terrorist suspects to be held at Guantnamo.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Human Rights First, which have criticized the system of detention at the prison camp at Guantnamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, said the lack of independent monitors will undermine the credibility of the process.

Two Pentagon legal officials told the groups that ”limited courtroom seating and other logistical issues” will restrict attendance at the trials. The International Committee of the Red Cross will be allowed access, though.

IN THE LETTERS

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, recently named the legal advisor to the military commission process, wrote to Human Rights Watch that seating for the media would “permit full and open reporting to the maximum extent possible.”

Daniel Dell’Orto, principal deputy general counsel for the Pentagon, wrote an identical letter to Amnesty. Officials wrote the groups’ requests would be kept in mind but made no promises of access.

USA = Human Rights Violator

While the USA pays lipservice to human rights, it is in reality one of the world’s worst violators of human rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
- Human Rights Watch

The groups accused the Pentagon of trying to shut out experienced, independent trial observers — a practice the State Department has criticized in other countries.

The State Department’s human-rights report for 2002 criticized Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Egypt and China for barring independent monitors from trials that involve human-rights issues.

PERCEPTION

”Allowing media coverage while pleading insufficient space for human-rights groups smacks of fear of informed criticism and will only fuel the perception that tribunals will be show trials,” said Alex Arriaga of Amnesty International USA.

U.S. officials have defended the detentions, with no charges or access to courts, as the best way to gain intelligence from terrorist suspects and prevent them from attacking Americans.

Herald staff writer Carol Rosenberg contributed to this report.

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