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Amnesty International Says Conditions at Guantanamo Getting Worse

Amnesty International released report April 5 criticizing conditions of terror suspects at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The human rights group says conditions there are getting worse. VOA's Sean Maroney reports.

The Amnesty International report calls conditions at a new camp at Guantanamo Bay "cruel and inhuman." It says detainees are confined and isolated for 22 hours a day and subjected to constant light and observation by guards.

Amnesty's USA director, Larry Cox, says it is deplorable for the United States to defend its use of the base and continue operations there, especially in light of alleged human rights abuses. "What makes the U.S. attack on the idea of human rights so serious is not that we are worse than other countries, but that we have always aspired to be so much better. That we have proclaimed continually to the world that we are better. And when the world superpower and its greatest democracy openly defends its own gross violations of human rights, it sends the most powerful message to dictators and killers around the world," he said.

Other human rights groups and some foreign governments criticize the United States for holding suspects years without a trial.

But the Cato Institute's Roger Pilón says that in the global war on terror, sacrifices must be made to combat an enemy trained in deception. "You're never going to get perfect justice. You're going to have to err on one side or the other. And you're going to get criticisms from both sides when you err too much on one rather than on the other. Given that there is no perfect justice, we have to -- to a substantial degree, muddle through," he said.

He says this is a new type of war requiring new responses. "Under law enforcement procedures, the aim is to presecute after the fact. In war, the aim is to prevent. You want to stop a 9/11. You don't simply want to prosecute. There's no prosecuting the people involved in 9/11, they're dead along with three thousand American citizens," he said.

But Cox stresses that the U.S. response has undermined its position for championing human rights to repressive governments and groups. "The point, and it's an important point, is that the United States can hardly play a leading or powerful role in working against these acts when we have by our deeds and words provided the rationale for them," he said.

U.S. State Department officials said the United States remains committed to help defend human rights around the world.

The State Department's own report highlights that the U.S. government spent some $1.2 billion in 2006 to combat abuses around the world.