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An Exclusive Look at Guantanamo Bay's Detention Center

From November 19-21, Amnesty International held the largest-ever gathering of former detainees from the U.S. military installation in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is part of a conference aimed at condemning what the human rights advocacy group calls "an increasingly globalized network of torture."

The conference comes on the heels of the recent agreement on a compromise measure in the U.S. Senate, which allows military tribunals for foreign terror suspects -- like those held at Guantanamo -- but would also grant some of them limited access to U.S. federal courts.

If the measure is approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President George W. Bush, it would apply to the more than 500 Guantanamo detainees. Amy Katz takes a closer look at the prison and the controversy surrounding it.

Guantanamo, Cuba -- home of the controversial prison where the United States government is detaining more than 500 men deemed as enemy combatants in the war on terror. Its evolution from a little-known naval base to a high-profile detention camp came in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks against the U.S.

Looking for 9/11 mastermind and leader of the al-Qaida terror network -- Osama bin Laden -- the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan. He has never been found, but many of his associates have and are now held at Guantanamo.

Human rights organizations claim the U.S. is violating the detainees' human rights -- an allegation denied by Major General Jay Hood , the commander of the Joint Task Force in Guantanamo.

"The men that are being held here are being held here in a humane manner. There are no interrogation techniques being used other than those that have been published in Army doctrine."

Lawyer Clive Stafford Smith represents 40 detainees in Guantanamo. His clients -- as well as other detainees -- claim they have been tortured during interrogation.

"I'm afraid what General Hood has said is belied by what the Bush administration has specifically authorized and they use all of the euphemistic terms for extraordinary interrogation techniques which are just abusive."

VOA's Patsy Widakuswara recently visited Guantanamo. She asked General Hood about abusive techniques such as sleep deprivation.

Major General Jay Hood denied such allegations. "None. I am amazed that you would ask me that. It's absolutely beyond me that you could possibly sit there with a straight face, having walked through those camps and believe that there's any sleep deprivation."

Prominent human rights advocacy group Amnesty International charges the U.S. with arbitrarily and illegally detaining the prisoners at Guantanamo. The U.S. denies that and also says it is not violating the Geneva Convention -- which guarantees prisoners of war certain rights.

Lieutenant Bruce Roberts is a spokesman at Guantanamo. "All the detainees here are treated in the spirit of the Geneva Convention. Being an enemy combatant does not allow the same privileges as being an enemy prisoner of war."

The Guantanamo naval complex stands on nearly 12,000 hectares of Cuban land. The Bush administration says since Cuba technically holds ultimate sovereignty over Guantanamo, the detainees there do not need to be given U.S. constitutional rights, including access to U.S. courts.

But the U.S. Supreme Court has now agreed to hear a challenge to the administration's plan to try detainees at military tribunals. The U.S. Senate has approved a proposal that would allow such tribunals. But the Senate also proposes that any detainee sentenced to 10 years in prison or to death, would be entitled to an automatic appeal in a civilian court: the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.