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US Lawmakers Say Treatment of Guantanamo Bay Detainees Has Improved

US Lawmakers say conditions at a prison for suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have improved. But one year after a Supreme Court ruling gave inmates at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention, many questions remain about the treatment of the 500 enemy combatants housed at the American prison camp.

Lawmakers who toured cellblocks and witnessed interrogations at Guantanamo say conditions for detainees have improved at the US prison camp. Military doctors say prison inmates have gained an average of 2.3 kilograms since their incarceration.

Congressman Duncan Hunter who led the 16-member delegation praised the camp as a "world class detention facility." with superior health care for detainees.

" Not only are they well fed, they receive first rate care comparable to HMO's in the United States. They're visited four times a month, in comparison to the average American male who gets checked 3.7 times each year," he said.

Guantanamo houses about 520 detainees captured in the U.S.-led war on terror. But recent allegations of torture, abuse and desecration of the Koran have fueled demands to close down the prison camp. Human Rights activists, who marked the one-year anniversary of a Supreme Court decision, granting detainees the right to challenge their detention, criticized the US government for acting too slowly.

Michael Ratner with the Center for Constitutional Rights says the government must charge detainees or release them.

"Our position at the center, is that it is not only about closing Guantanamo, it is making sure that every single person detained by the United States gets a right to due process of law," he said.

Brigadier General Jay Hood, the U.S. Commander at Guantanamo told a Congressional Armed Services Committee - that detainees have been given written notice of their legal rights but justified the prolonged custody of some inmates as productive.

"Information our detainees have provided has been instrumental in learning how terrorist organizations recruit, train, launder money and plan operations," he said.

Responding to questions about mistreatment by some interrogators, General Hood rejected an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that claims doctors assisted investigators in getting information from detainees.

"We do not allow interrogators access to medical information in order to use it in any sort of coercive manner in support of interrogation. That simply does not happen," Gen. Hood insisted.

But Human Rights Activists want to make a larger point. They say freedom has been a casualty in the war on terror.

Tom Wilner is a lawyer for one of the detainees.

"We simply cannot promote freedom and democracy around the world if we abandon those principles ourselves," he said.

Supporters of the long-term detention of those designated as enemy combatants say it's essential to winning the war on terror.