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U.S. Respects Detainees Rights


U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says "dealing with captured terrorists is a difficult challenge," part of a "very different kind of war." Accordingly, he says, "we are constantly working to improve our detainee policies and procedures." One thing that will not change, he says, is the U.S. commitment to the rule of law and the rights of detainees.

The U.S. currently holds about five hundred detainees at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military base. Among them, says Attorney General Gonzales, "terrorist trainers, bomb-makers, terrorist financiers, bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, and potential suicide bombers." The U.S, says Mr. Gonzales, "has designed specific processes to ensure that we continue to detain only those who are dangerous enemy combatants."

These detainees, he says, are accorded "unprecedented legal protections." Each detainee receives a formal hearing before a tribunal at Guantanamo to determine if he has been properly detained. The detainee can appeal the tribunal's decision to a civilian federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Guantanamo detainees receive state-of-the-art medical care, healthy meals consistent with their cultural and religious requirements, and opportunities to observe their religious beliefs. Torture or cruel and degrading treatment is strictly forbidden by U.S. law. "When violations do occur, as they have done," says Mr. Gonzales, "those found to have committed infractions are disciplined."

Barry Lowenkrohn is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He says that the detainees held by the U.S. are protected by a system of government that holds its security forces accountable:

"Unlike so many of these other countries, what is it that we have in the United States? We have a robust and vigorous press that reports on these issues. We have a Congress that is elected by the people and . . . that legislates such issues. . . .We have an independent judiciary that goes all the way to the Supreme Court that [makes rulings] on these issues. We have all these self-corrective mechanisms that are built in, whether in times of peace or especially in times of war."

"The war on terror has to be fought lawfully," says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Terrorists live in a lawless and law-free society," she says, and "we don't want to mimic them or become like them."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.

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