U.S. has secret jails, report says

Abuse of terror suspects called `inevitable’

WASHINGTON—The United States is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centres worldwide and about half of these operate in total secrecy, said a human rights report released yesterday.

Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in the report that secrecy around these places made “inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable.”

In the current scandal over prisoner abuse, a CIA contractor yesterday became the first civilian to face criminal charges related to U.S. treatment of overseas prisoners.

America vs. 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

Former U.S. Army Ranger David Passaro, 38, is accused of using his hands, feet and a flashlight to beat a detainee who later died at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

“The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Deborah Pearlstein, director of the rights group’s U.S. Law and Security program, referring to the U.S. naval base prison in Cuba and the Iraqi prison where abuses are being investigated.

“This is all about secrecy, accountability and the law,” Pearlstein told a news conference.

The report coincided with news that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered military officials to hold a suspect in a prison near Baghdad without telling the Red Cross. Pearlstein said this would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions and Defence Department directives.

Yesterday, Rumsfeld defended his decision to hold the prisoner without notifying international authorities, saying it was at the request of then-CIA director George Tenet, and the detainee was treated humanely.

“He wasn’t lost in the system,” Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. “There is no question at all … that he received humane treatment.”

Pearlstein said thousands of security detainees were being held by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as locations elsewhere which the military refused to disclose.

“The U.S. government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability of law,” said the report.

Pearlstein said multiple sources reported U.S. detention centres in, among other places, Kohat in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and at Al Jafr prison in Jordan, where the group said the CIA had an interrogation facility.

Prisoners are also being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C., and others were suspected of being held on U.S. warships.

Pearlstein called for the U.S. authorities to end “secret detentions,” provide a list of prisoners, investigate abuses and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross unfettered access to detainees.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, referring to the four-count indictment against Passaro, told a news conference in Washington yesterday: “The United States will not tolerate criminal acts of brutality.”

Passaro, who’s charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of assault resulting in serious bodily injury, was in Afghanistan working for the CIA when he allegedly interrogated Adul Wali for two days about rocket attacks on the U.S. base near Asadabad, close to the Pakistan border.

Wali, who had voluntarily surrendered to the base, died in his cell on June, 21, 2003.

“We take allegations of wrongdoing very seriously,” CIA spokesperson Mark Mansfield said yesterday. “The CIA does not support or condone unlawful activities of any sort and has an obligation to report possible violations of the law to the appropriate authorities.”

Passaro, who now works at Fort Bragg, N.C., could face up to 40 years in prison and fines of $1 million (U.S.) if convicted.

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Reuters, Associated Press, USA
June 18, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday June 18, 2004.
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