A Pentagon review of conditions at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba says the facility meets the standards for humane treatment of detainees required in the Geneva Conventions. Human rights groups immediately disputed the findings on Monday.
The review was requested by U.S. President Barack Obama as part of his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay center within a year.
The report was written by Admiral Patrick Walsh, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
Walsh told reporters at the Pentagon that after 13 days of investigation and more than 100 interviews, including some with prisoners, he believes the facility complies with the Geneva Conventions.
"From our review, it was apparent that the chain of command responsible for the detention mission at Guantanamo consistently seeks to go beyond the minimum standar," said Admiral Walsh. "We found that the chain of command endeavors to enhance conditions in a manner as humane as possible, consistent with security concerns."
Walsh says he is recommending changes at Guantanamo, primarily providing the detainees with more group recreation and time for prayer.
"Key to the Islamic religion is being able to practice prayer as a community," he said. "The ability to interact person-to-person is critically important, for folks to be able to socialize and to be able to be intellectually stimulated."
Some of the more dangerous detainees being held at the U.S. naval facility in Cuba are prohibited from meeting with other prisoners and are kept in their cells for as long as 23 hours per day.
Human rights groups frequently have condemned Guantanamo as violating the Geneva Conventions, which were established to protect the rights of people held by other countries, including in times of war.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a group of attorneys representing those being held at Guantanamo, released its own report on Monday, charging that detainees are forced to endure inhumane conditions.
The group says a majority of the detainees are being held in solitary confinement and that the environment is harshly punitive.
Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei recently returned from a visit to Guantanamo Bay.
"Dozens of detainees were on hunger strikes," said Pardiss Kebriaei. "They were being forcibly dragged out of their cells to be force fed in restraint chairs. Most detainees were staying in their cells all day, every day, just to avoid going through these new scanners that are now setup that visually strip detainees naked every time they exit and reenter their cells."
Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He says the conditions at Guantanamo violate U.S. and international legal standards.
"The sort of isolation that we see in Guantanamo for most of the prisoners is the sort of thing that would never be allowed under U.S. law for detainees who were not convicted," said Vincent Warren. "It is definitely not something that would be acceptable for our own troops captured on foreign battlefields and it is not acceptable at Guantanamo either."
There are about 250 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay and a task force being led by the U.S. Justice Department is expected to begin reviewing their cases soon.