A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee heard testimony Tuesday about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba. Senior U.S. officials say the Bush administration could announce plans before the end of its term in January to close the controversial prison. VOA's Deborah Block reports from Washington.
The U.S. government is under international and domestic pressure to close the prison camp. It opened in January 2002 to house terror suspects. Debate has intensified in recent months over how to deal with Guantanamo.
Congressman Bill Delahunt, a Democrat, is head of a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on human rights. He says some detainees have been held unjustly.
"But once discovered, we should acknowledge those mistakes and fix them, design a system that allows redress, that embraces the rule of law in full measure and that shows the world that American justice is not afraid of the truth but in fact seeks the truth, however embarrassing that may be to those in power," he said.
More than 500 prisoners have been released from Guantanamo. But most of the remaining 270 detainees have been confined for years without charge. So far, one prisoner has been tried in a military tribunal and convicted. The U.S. government says it intends to try between 60 and 80 of the remaining prisoners.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, does not apologize for detaining radical Islamists who have killed innocent people. But he agrees that the U.S. should own up to its mistakes.
He says, "Now obviously some of the people in any type of chaotic situation are innocent and we should do our very best make sure in time of conflict, that we admit our mistakes, we tell the truth."
Attorney Emi MacLean is with the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative. The group advocates for Guantanamo detainees. She says the detention camp has not made the U.S. safer.
"The continued existence of Guantanamo as an offshore prison facility intended to be as outside of the reach of the law is destruction for the U.S. image abroad and counterproductive for human rights and national and international security,” MacLean said.
In some cases, the U.S. has returned detainees to their home countries after receiving assurances they would not be tortured there. Congressmen Delahunt says the practice troubles him. He says countries such as Libya, Iran and Kazakhstan practice systematic torture.
Even if the prison closes, government officials are debating other options, including the transfer of detainees to high security military prisons in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the rights of Guantanamo prisoners and whether they can use civilian courts to challenge their confinement.