Amnesty International is calling for the United States to abandon its military trials in Guantanamo Bay and for the closure of the detention facility, that has been used to house terror suspects. Tendai Maphosa reports from London the Amnesty call is being made as trial begins for Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan.
Amnesty International describes the trials by military commissions as second-class, to which the United States government would not subject its own citizens.
"That was made clear at the time that the law was passed," says Amnesty International spokesman Rob Freer. "It has lower standards of justice than a normal criminal trial that a U.S. national would receive, it is discriminatory and in so doing it violates international human rights law, which says there should be no discrimination of fundamental human rights," he said.
Freer also called into question the independence of the military tribunals, saying they lack the transparency for justice to be served.
Bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001. Prosecutors say Hamdan was close to al-Qaida's inner circle and accuse him of helping bin Laden escape retribution following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Hamdan's lawyers say that while he was Osama bin Laden's driver, he was not involved in terrorist activity.
Hamdan is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried by military commission.
Amnesty criticizes the fact that the military commission can admit information extracted under what it calls cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It says Salim Hamdan was subjected to sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and other unlawful punishments in a bid to coerce him into making a confession. These practices, Freer says are routinely criticized by the United States when practiced in other countries.
"The U.S. promotes fair trials in these human rights reports, and yet now what it is doing at Guantanamo mirrors what it is doing in other countries. Ironically the government of Cuba is singled out every year for criticism about the trials that it runs just over the fence from Guantanamo - allowing coerced evidence, precisely what now will be allowed under the Military Commissions Act," he added.
In a lawsuit brought by Hamdan's attorneys, the Supreme Court struck down the first military commission system in 2006. It ruled the commission was not authorized by federal law and violated the Geneva Conventions. The United States Congress then passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 under which Hamdan is now being tried. He faces life in jail if found guilty.