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Bush defends detainee treatment at Guanantamo

Reuters | July 6, 2005

COPENHAGEN - President Bush defended the U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday and invited European journalists to go see the detention center themselves for an independent look.

Bush raised the subject himself in his opening statement at a news conference with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Rasmussen raised his concerns about the facility during their private talks, Bush said.

"Let me tell you what I told him," Bush said. "I said, first, the prisoners are well-treated in Guantanamo. There's total transparency. The International Red Cross can inspect any time, any day. And you're welcome to go. The press, of course, is welcome to go down to Guantanamo."

An Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-commissioned report said last week that the United States should close Guantanamo because its treatment of some 500 terrorism suspects encourages hatred toward the West and bolsters Muslim membership of the al Qaeda network.

In June, the U.S. military described cases of mishandling of the Koran by U.S. personnel at Guantanamo naval base in Cuba, including splashing it with urine and kicking it. Muslims view the Koran as the literal word of God.

Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have strongly defended the detention center, saying these suspects must be taken somewhere for housing and interrogation and to prevent them from returning to battle.

Bush said he told Rasmussen he was waiting for the U.S. court system to decide whether suspects being held at Guantanamo should be dealt with through civilian U.S. courts or military tribunals.

"And once the judicial branch of our government makes its decision, then we'll proceed forward with giving people fair and open trials," Bush said.

Guantanamo mostly holds prisoners scooped up in Afghanistan during the U.S. offensive there in retaliation for the Sept. 11 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

Human rights groups as well as institutions such as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe have criticized the United States for holding detainees there for indefinite periods and not assigning them "prisoner of war" status.

Instead, suspects are labeled "enemy combatants," something the OSCE report called a legal nonentity under international law.




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