[News] 'Thousands held by US in secret lockups'

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Fri Jun 18 08:55:29 EDT 2004

'Thousands held by US in secret lockups'
Friday 18 June 2004 5:28 AM GMT

The United States is holding thousands of suspects at more than two dozen 
detention centres, half of which operate in secret, says a leading US 
human-rights group.

The revelation comes as a CIA contractor is charged with assaulting an 
Afghan detainee who later died of his injuries.

The secrecy surrounding the centres makes "inappropriate detention and 
abuse not only likely, but inevitable", said the New York-based Human 
Rights First in a report on Thursday.

The centres are in Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan and on two US 
ships, said the human-rights group. They fail to meet obligations under US 
and international law on the treatment of prisoners, said the report 
entitled Ending Secret Detention.

It was released on the same day that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld 
acknowledged that the occupation authority had secretly held a prisoner in 
Iraq and failed to register the detainee with the International Committee 
of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Rumsfeld refused to cite the reason for the secrecy, saying it was 
classified. However, he denied it was done to prevent international 
monitors from gaining access to the suspect.

The report's release also followed the publication of photos of the sexual 
abuse and humiliation of Iraqi detainees at the hands of occupation 
soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and reports of abuse at the 
US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in 
isolation," said Deborah Pearlstein, director of Human Rights First's US 
Law and Security Programme.

"The United States government is holding prisoners in a secret system of 
off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability 
or law."

Secret centres

Among the detention camps that the US government refuses to disclose but 
have been reported to Human Rights First by "multiple sources" are a centre 
in Kohat, Pakistan, near the Afghan border; al-Jafr Prison, a US Central 
Intelligence Agency  interrogation facility in Jordan; and a facility on 
the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.

The ships USS Bataan and USS Peleliu were also suspected detention sites, 
said the report by the rights group.

Most of the detention centres listed in the report were in Iraq, including 
Abu Ghraib; Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport; Camp Bucca 
near Basra; and nine centres run by military division or brigades.

The report said suspected sites were also in Afghanistan, including CIA 
interrogation facilities in Kabul and at Bagram Air Force Base.

The other sites are known, including a collection centre at Bagram; a 
facility in Kandahar; the Guantanamo Bay base; and a US military brig in 
Charleston, South Carolina.

Human Rights First called on Washington to end secret detentions; notify 
the families of the detainees; investigate abuses; implement preventative 
measures; release the location of the detention facilities; and give the 
Red Cross immediate access to all detainees.

The Red Cross has been given access to some detainees, most notably ousted 
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Interrogator charged

In related developments, a former Army Ranger hired by the CIA to conduct 
interrogations was charged with assaulting an Afghan detainee who died 
after two days of beatings, the first time civilian charges have been 
brought in the investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A four-count grand jury indictment was handed up Thursday in the US state 
of North Carolina, against David Passaro, 38, for the 21 June 2003, killing 
of Abd al-Wali.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said Passaro was accused of "brutally 
assaulting" Wali at a US base in Asadabad, Afghanistan.

Asked why Passaro was not charged with torture or other more serious 
offences, Ashcroft said the indictment was based on the best evidence 
available. He said more serious charges could be brought if new evidence is 


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