- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

LONDON — Amnesty International castigated the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a failure yesterday, calling it “the gulag of our time” in the human rights group’s harshest rebuke of American detention policies.

Amnesty urged Washington to shut down the prison at the U.S. Navy’s base in Cuba, where about 540 men are being held on suspicion of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or the al Qaeda terror network. Some have been jailed for more than three years without charge.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Amnesty’s complaints were “ridiculous and unsupported by the facts.” He said all accusations of prisoner mistreatment are investigated.

“We hold people accountable when there’s abuse. We take steps to prevent it from happening again. And we do so in a very public way for the world to see that we lead by example and that we do have values that we hold very dearly and believe in,” Mr. McClellan told reporters.

The prison camp has been in the spotlight in the past year since the FBI cited cases of aggressive interrogation techniques and detainee mistreatment.

In its annual report, Amnesty accused governments around the world of abandoning human rights protections. It said Sudan failed to protect its people from one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and that Haiti promoted human rights abusers.

But one of the biggest disappointments in the human rights arena was with the United States, Amnesty said, “after evidence came to light that the U.S. administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the U.N. Convention against Torture.”

“Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time,” Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan said, referring to the Soviet system of detention facilities for political prisoners.

The 308-page report from the London-based group accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections.

Amnesty also criticized the African Union and the international community for not taking action against Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe’s party has been accused of rigging elections, repressing opponents and driving agriculture to the brink of collapse.

In Haiti, human rights violators who led the rebellion that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide last year were able to retake key positions, while the government struggled to maintain control from armed groups, Amnesty said.

The group accused Israeli soldiers of operating outside international law by using torture, destroying property and obstructing medical assistance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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