Gitmo Inmates to be Protected by Geneva Conventions

By Sarah Larkins | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Just a day after the release of a 51-page report detailing alleged abuses at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, the Bush administration Tuesday agreed to allow Guanatanamo detainees the protection from inhumane treatment under the Geneva Conventions.

The order, signed by the Pentagon's second in command -- Gordon England -- followed the Supreme Court decision of June 29 that declared illegal the administration's use of military tribunals to try foreign suspects captured in the war against terrorism.

On Monday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued a 51-page report that it claimed was "drawn directly from habeas counsels' unclassified notes" taken during interviews with the Guantanamo detainees.

"It's more clear evidence that the base should be closed ... and people who are there should either be tried or let go," Sean Sullivan, CCR press contact, told Cybercast News Service . "This is not what America stands for."

According to the report, detainees being interrogated at Guantanamo have been physically, psychologically and sexually abused by personnel. Detainees have reported physical abuse such as beatings and short shackling, and sexual abuse including inappropriate touching and threats of rape, the CCR report stated.

"These aggressive interrogation techniques, when coupled with the stress of indefinite, arbitrary detention, have caused the detainees tremendous psychological and physical injury," CCR reported. "At least one prisoner nearly died during an interrogation."

"I think the torture and abuse detailed here will shock Congress and the American public because it reveals a lawless, immoral and ineffective detention facility and undermines the administration's increasingly desperate attempts to lie about what is happening down there," CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said.

Prior to the Pentagon's action Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had argued that the Geneva Conventions did not necessarily apply at Guantanamo.

"The Geneva Conventions were written at a different era, a different time, and they drew a sharp distinction between people who behaved in a normal, conventional way -- wore a uniform, carried their weapons publicly -- and they were the ones that were supposed to be treated as prisoners of war," Rumsfeld told ABC News Radio in July. "Conversely, in Afghanistan, the people that are ... in Guantanamo, are terrorists."

The Guantanamo Bay prison, located on a U.S. naval base in Cuba, currently holds about 450 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

The mission at Guantanamo Bay is to provide safe and humane custody and care to detainees while conducting interrogation operations to collect strategic intelligence, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris said in June.

"We care for dangerous men humanely, but we don't forget that they are dangerous men," he said.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the Department of Defense has stated that detainees are an important resource in identifying individuals from al Qaeda and the Taliban who are still at large.

"Detainees also still provide useful information on locations of training compounds and safe houses, terrain features, travel patterns and routes used for smuggling people and equipment, as well as for identifying potential supports and opponents," the Defense Department stated in March.

However, Sullivan from the CCR argued that it's possible to fight terrorism while obeying the law.

"You can try these people, you can obey the laws of the United States and the dictates of the Supreme Court while at the same time keeping America safe from terrorists," he said. "I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive."

President Bush has said he plans to close Guantanamo, though it is a process that will not happen quickly.

"We will proceed as rapidly as we can to bring to justice those who have been held in Guantanamo, to repatriate as quickly as possible those who may be repatriated," White House spokesman Tony Snow said in June. "And that's always been the goal. But this is not a decision that lends itself to a very quick disposition."

While the date for closing the base remains uncertain, Goodman said he hopes the CCR report will contribute to the debate.

"Before Congress rushes to give the president cover with unnecessary new legislation, I hope it will review the record and provide real oversight, starting with an independent investigation of the base," he said.

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