The United States Tuesday rejected charges by Amnesty International of torture at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It also chided the London-based rights group for failing to assist in the war crimes prosecution of Saddam Hussein.
The Bush administration is again denying charges of mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, while reiterating its desire to close the controversial facility as soon as it is practical.
The comments came in response to Amnesty International's annual report released Tuesday which faulted world powers, particularly the United States, for allegedly setting aside human rights concerns in pursuing the war against terrorism.
At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack rejected Amnesty charges that the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo amounted to cruel and inhuman treatment, or that torture was practiced there.
McCormack reiterated the United States does not want to be the world's jailer and hopes to eventually close the Guantanamo facility, but said critics provide no answers about what should be done with the detainees: "At some point in the future, would we all like to see Guantanamo Bay closed down? Absolutely. But at the moment, there are dangerous people being held in Guantanamo Bay. These are people that were picked up on battlefields, planning for, engaged in various acts of terrorism around the world. These are individuals who pose a threat potentially not only to American citizens, but citizens from Europe as well as around the world," he said.
Nearly 500 detainees, most of them suspected al-Qaida and Taleban members taken prisoner during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, remain at the Cuba facility.
McCormack said the United States is bearing a burden for others in detaining would-be terrorists. He said it is trying to repatriate those it can under agreements with various countries guaranteeing that those freed will not be mistreated or be allowed to return to terror activity.
The Bush administration has said in the past it welcomed the scrutiny of human rights groups. But officials at the White House and State Department expressed irritation over the Amnesty report, the second of its kind in less than a week accusing the United States of abuses at Guantanamo and elsewhere.
McCormack quipped that Amnesty International seems good at press releases, but has done nothing to support the new Iraqi government in its prosecution of Saddam Hussein, whose regime was one of the worse human rights abusers of modern times. "In the years of Saddam Hussein's rule, Amnesty International was at the forefront of bringing to light human rights abuses that were perpetrated by that regime, terrible, terrible things. They did great work in that regard. But when it came time to put Saddam Hussein on trial, which is happening right now, they're absent. They've done zero, zip, nothing, to assist in those efforts," he said.
McCormack said Amnesty could have offered to help Saddam trial prosecutors with information from its data base on Iraqi rights abuses.
The trial of the former Iraqi dictator has been largely underwritten by the United States, with some help from European governments and non-governmental groups.