The United States has at least a dozen secretive detention centres around the world, holding suspects in the “war on terror”, a human rights group reported tonight.
Known sites like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram air base in Afghanistan are complemented by a network of jails in Jordan and Pakistan and by prison ships at sea, according to Human Rights First.
Human Rights Watch
The group, previously known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the detention centres were “beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law”.
The families of some of the detainees have no idea where their loved ones are, the group says.
“The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib (prison in Baghdad) cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Deborah Pearlstein, director of Human Rights First’s US law and security programme.
“The United States government is holding prisoners in a secret system of offshore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law,” she added.
The group called for the secretive practices to stop and for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be given immediate access to those in custody.
The US Congress and the Red Cross should be told of the secret locations, Human Rights First said.
The group also appealed for the families of detainees to be informed of their loved ones’ whereabouts, legal status, and condition of health.
Such secrecy makes “inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely, but inevitable”, the group said in its report, entitled “Ending Secret Detention”.
It also puts American soldiers at risk of being tortured if captured in hostile locations, the group warned.
“The United States’ practices in its global network of detention facilities also has a deeply negative effect on the US ability to combat the threat of terrorism which depends critically on a visible demonstration that US deeds match its words in supporting democracy and human rights,” the report said.
The report came weeks after photographs of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners came to light, prompting an international outcry and fury in the Arab world.