US to consider Guantanamo releases

The Pentagon has agreed to accelerate the process of reviewing prisoners for possible release from the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

    There are around 660 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay

    The International Committee

    of the Red Cross made the announcement on Friday after a meeting with top US officials.

    But ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said he had yet to

    see "concrete results" on other concerns he expressed

    about the status of the

    roughly 660 non-US citizens imprisoned at the Cuba base

    .

    Kellenberger also said the United States had not yet told

    the ICRC when it would get access to former Iraqi President

    Saddam Hussein.

    The United

    States announced on 9 January it had formally designated him an

    enemy prisoner of war, entitling him to a

    visit by the ICRC.

    'Legal black hole'

    Kellenberger met on Friday with Deputy Defense Secretary

    Paul Wolfowitz after meeting on Thursday with Secretary of

    State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza

    Rice.

    "If they are not considered prisoners of war...

    then they have to be

    charged with a crime and given access to an attorney and to

    some kind of tribunal before which they can adjudicate their

    status. And that is, of course, not happening"

    William Schulz,
    Amnesty International

    The United States two years ago began holding foreign

    nationals caught in what President George Bush calls the

    global war on terrorism at a specially built detention facility

    at the Guantanamo base. Most were captured in Afghanistan.

    International organisations including the ICRC have accused

    the United States of condemning the prisoners to a "legal black

    hole".

    Kellenberger visited Washington in May, demanding prisoners be

    allowed due process of the law and seeking changes at the

    Guantanamo camp.

    He said these concerns had not been adequately

    addressed, expressing disappointment that two years after the

    first prisoners arrived, they still face indefinite detention

    beyond the reach of the law.

    Guantanamo releases

    Using a secretive review process, the United States has

    released 84 Guantanamo prisoners and sent four others to Saudi

    Arabia for continued detention.

    "Mr Wolfowitz has told me that they will accelerate the

    review process of the people in Guantanamo. And this

    accelerated review process, it would be my hope, could then

    lead also to a speeding up of the releases," Kellenberger said

    .

    The ICRC chief said Wolfowitz, Powell and Rice "seemed

    sincerely receptive to our concerns and challenges".

    "But they did not give detailed answers to these requests,"

    Kellenberger said. "I hope now that our dialogue will lead to

    concrete results."

    Donald Rumsfeld has labeled the
    Guantanamo inmates 'terrorists'  

    The ICRC chief pressed for access to the unknown number of

    "terrorism" suspects seized by the United States and held at

    undisclosed locations, expressing concern for their fate.

    'Unlawful combatants' 

    The Pentagon offered no details about the meeting.

    The Defense Department is in the final stages of planning for

    trials by special military tribunals of some of the detainees.

    Critics have accused the United States of violating the

    Geneva Conventions, noting the decision to deny detainees

    prisoner-of-war status entitling them to numerous legal rights

    in favour of the designation "unlawful combatants".

    "If they are not considered prisoners of war, as apparently

    they are not in this case by the US, then they have to be

    charged with a crime and given access to an attorney and to

    some kind of tribunal before which they can adjudicate their

    status. And that is, of course, not happening," Amnesty

    International USA Executive Director William Schulz said

    .

    And Human Rights Watch said the world still does not know who

    the detainees are, what they are accused of doing, or when they

    might be charged or released.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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