Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's Gitmo policies disappoint rights advocates

Feb 23, 2009

WASHINGTON: Despite United States President Barack Obama's moves to ban torture and close Guantanamo Bay, human rights advocates say policies towards 'terror' detainees do not depart enough from that of the Bush administration.

Announcements on Friday had rights advocates and lawyers questioning if the Obama administration was continuing the policies of former president George W. Bush, which provoked outrage around the world.

A Pentagon report on the Guantanamo detention camp, ordered by Mr Obama, drew a hail of fire for claiming that conditions for inmates are in line with Geneva Conventions and other legal obligations.

The report's conclusion contrasted sharply with claims by lawyers who regularly visit detainees at the remote prison at a US naval base in Cuba.

In another policy declaration on Friday that one detainee advocate described as 'deeply disappointing', Mr Obama backed Bush positions on prisoner rights at Bagram - an Afghan detention facility.

The ruling followed a hearing for four Bagram inmates by a US District Court in Washington last month, seeking the same rights accorded to prisoners at Guantanamo, which led to a flood of appeals in Washington courts from Guantanamo inmates challenging their detentions.

But in a two-sentence statement from the Justice Department, Mr Obama's administration said 'the government adheres to its previously articulated position', ensuring the facility's estimated 600 prisoners would not be able to challenge their detention in US courts.

Attorneys representing the detainees reacted with dismay at the news.

Ms Barbara Olshansky, lead counsel for three of the four detainees, said: 'The decision by the Obama administration to adhere to a position that has contributed to making our country a pariah around the world for its flagrant disregard of people's human rights is deeply disappointing.'


[I want to believe Obama when he says to the effect that we do not need to mortgage principles to secure peace or to fight terrorism. I hope that this is only temporary until some way out can be found. But pragmatically, perhaps idealism has to step aside in this case?]

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