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Amnesty International Decries Conditions at Guantanamo

The human rights group Amnesty International says the United States should open the Guantanamo terrorist detention center to unhindered international inspections, or else close it down.

The call from Amnesty International follows an announcement from United Nations human rights experts that they have cancelled a visit to the U.S.-run camp in Cuba. U.N. officials say Washington had denied them unrestricted access to Guantanamo detainees.

U.S. officials have strongly denied allegations that prisoners at the facility are being mistreated. U.S. officials also point out that the International Committee of the Red Cross has already been given access to interview Guantanamo detainees to monitor the conditions at the camp.

The Secretary-General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, says the development fuels concern about the treatment of Islamic terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo.

"We call on the U.S. government to stop blocking meaningful access to independent experts and to the United Nations to the Guantanamo detention center. Our demand is simple. Shut down Guantanamo, or open it up," said Ms. Khan.

Ms. Khan says her organization, working with other human rights activists, has gathered evidence that the United States and some of its allies are using abusive tactics to try to gather information from suspected terrorists.

"Torture, ill-treatment, incommunicado and secret detention are all prohibited under international law," she added. "Disappearances are crimes under international law, yet all are being committed with impunity by governments, including the United States, which is the self-professed defender of democracy and freedom around the world."

Ms. Khan says her organization strongly condemns terrorist attacks against civilians as gross abuses of human rights. But she says the perpetrators and their accomplices should be charged, tried and punished in accordance with international human rights standards.

Amnesty International and the British-based legal charity Reprieve are sponsoring a three-day conference in London to examine the use of torture, secret detentions and other controversial methods in the war on terrorism.