U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says those who call for the closure the detention center at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are just flat wrong.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the Guantanamo Bay detention Center is being run as well as possible and any allegations of torture or abuse of prisoners are being handled through appropriate military procedures. Almost 500 prisoners in the war on terror have been held without trial at the base.
Rumsfeld says calls to close the center by critics and some human rights groups are unrealistic and would open the gates to terrorists. He says at least 15 prisoners who have been released have returned to the battlefield where they have been killed or captured. He also disagreed with the remark by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the United States will have to close the center "sooner or later."
"We have several hundred terrorists, bad people. If they went back out on the field they would try to kill Americans," said Mr. Rumsfeld. "That is just a fact. To close that place and pretend that there is no problem just is not realistic. Second, he has never been to Guantanamo Bay."
Speaking Thursday, after the UN's Human Rights Commission called for the closing of the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Mr. Annan said he believed the prison should be closed as soon as possible. The report accused the United States of torture and violating the right to fair trial.
The European parliament has also voted in favor of a resolution urging closure of the prison and fair trials for the detainees.
The UN human rights experts were given permission to go to Guantanamo Bay, but turned down the offer because they were told they would not be allowed to interview the detainees.
Rumsfeld says only the International Committee of the Red Cross can interview the detainees. The Red Cross interviews detainees on an ongoing basis, but keeps its reports confidential. Human rights activists continue to push for an independent probe of the detention center that will release a public report.
Rumsfeld says there have already been a dozen investigations of the center since allegations of abuse emerged.
"I think that it has been examined, officers have been punished, enlisted personnel have been punished," he added. "Some things were done, mistreatment of detainees, which never should have happened. It is a terrible thing that it did. But no, I do not think it would serve our purpose, anyone's purpose to have still one more, instead of 14 have 15 investigations of this and rehash all of this. I think it is harmful to the country. I think it does not serve any purpose."
Rumsfeld made his comments Friday during a discussion with the influential Council on Foreign Relations, a private New York group.