Far from winding down, the controversial US detention centre is expanding
The controversy over the US-run detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is to erupt
anew with confirmation by the Pentagon that a new, permanent prison will open
in the Cuban enclave in the next few weeks.
Camp 6, a state-of-the-art maximum-security jail built by a Halliburton subsidiary,
will be able to hold 200 prisoners. Commander Robert Durand, a spokesman for
Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said the $30m, two-storey block was due to open
at the end of September. He added: "Camp 6 is designed to improve the quality
of life for the detainees and provide greater protection for the people working
in the facility."
This development will refuel the controversy about the jail, which still holds
450 prisoners from President George Bush's "war on terror". Campaigners
pointed to Mr Bush's claim earlier this summer that he would "like to close"
Guantanamo. Just weeks after he made his comments in June, the Supreme Court
ruled that the administration's system for trying prisoners using military tribunals
breached United States and international law.
At the time, some campaigners predicted the decision marked the beginning of
the end of Guantanamo Bay. Since then, however, the Bush administration has
signalled its intention to introduce new legislation that would circumvent the
court's ruling. The revelation that Camp 6 is poised to open is proof that it
intends to keep using the prison.
Amnesty International's UK campaigns director, Tim Hancock, said: "This
appears to make a mockery of President Bush's statements about the need to close
down Guantanamo Bay. In addition to strongly urging the President to step in
to prevent any extension to this already notorious prison camp, we call on him
to speed up the process of closing Guantanamo and of ensuring that all detainees
are allowed fair trials or released to safe countries."
Zachary KatzNelson, senior counsel with the group Reprieve, which represents
36 Guantanamo prisoners, argued that public opinion and the courts would ultimately
force the US to close the camp down. "If Bush had the choice, he would
not shut it, and the men [held there] would never see the light of day, and
neither would their stories come out," he said. "The reality is that
the world knows too much. He has to shut it down."
The new facility is reported to be modelled on a jail in Lenawee County, Michigan.
Commander Durand said Camp 6 will have better recreation and exercise amenities
for detainees and integrated medical care. Other facilities at the US naval base
on Cuba include Camps 1, 2, 3 and 5, which are maximum-security, single-cell blocks;
Camp 4, which is a medium-security, communal living prison; and Camp Iguana, also
medium security, which houses detainees cleared for release and awaiting transfer.
Of all the prisoners ever held at Guatanamo since it was established in January
2002, only 10 have been formally charged. An investigation earlier this year
by New Jersey's Seton Hall University showed that, based on the military's own
documents, 55 per cent of prisoners are not alleged to have committed any hostile
acts against the US, and 40 per cent are not accused of affiliation with al-Qa'ida.
The same documents suggested only 8 per cent of prisoners are accused of fighting
for a terrorist group, and that 86 per cent were captured by the Northern Alliance
or Pakistani authorities "at a time when the US offered large bounties
for the capture of suspected terrorists".
Speaking in the Rose Garden in June following the suicide of three prisoners,
Mr Bush said: "I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognise that
we're holding some people that are darn dangerous, and that we better have a
plan to deal with them in our courts."
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