friday, june 18, 2004. 7:16am (aest)
human rights first says alleged abuses at abu ghraib prison must not be seen in isolation. (afp)
us has secret prisons: rights group
the united states is holding terrorism suspects in more than two dozen detention centres worldwide, about half of which operate in total secrecy, according to a new human rights report.
human rights first said in a report that secrecy surrounding the facilities made "inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable".
the director of the group's us law and security program, deborah pearlstein, potential abuse at the abu ghraib prison outside baghdad and the guantanamo bay military prison in cuba "cannot be addressed in isolation".
"this is all about secrecy, accountability and the law," ms pearlstein told a news conference.
the report coincided with news that defence secretary donald rumsfeld ordered military officials to hold a suspect in a prison near baghdad without telling the red cross.
mr pearlstein says that would be a violation of the geneva conventions and defence department directives.
she says the united states is holding thousands of security detainees in iraq and afghanistan, as well as locations elsewhere which the military refused to disclose.
"the us government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off-shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability of law," the report said.
pakistan, diego garcia, jordan
ms pearlstein says multiple sources report us detention centres in, among other places, kohat in pakistan near the border with afghanistan, on the indian ocean island of diego garcia and at al jafr prison in jordan, where the group said the cia had an interrogation facility.
prisoners are also being held at the naval consolidated brig in charleston, south carolina, and others were suspected of being held on us warships.
a defence department spokesman told reuters he would comment when he had more information about the report.
ms pearlstein called for us authorities to end "secret detentions", provide a list of prisoners, investigate abuses and allow the international committee of the red cross unfettered access to detainees.
us treatment of detainees came under the spotlight after disturbing photos were leaked to the media showing us soldiers abusing iraqi prisoners.
the united states is conducting several investigations into the abuses but ms pearlstein says they are not enough and a full court of inquiry should be ordered.
families of suspects detained by us authorities have complained strongly about the lack of information about detainees.
pakistani farhat paracha said via a telephone link-up at the news conference that she tried for weeks to find her husband, saifullah paracha, who disappeared last june when he took a business trip from pakistan to thailand.
ms paracha said she asked the us and pakistani governments to track him down and only learned about his whereabouts when the red cross contacted her six weeks later to say her husband was being held at bagram air force base in afghanistan.
"i feel disgusted. it makes my heart sink. i feel so powerless and so helpless," ms paracha said.
human rights first was formerly known as the lawyers committee for human rights.
in other developments:
- us defence secretary donald rumsfeld, acting at the request of the cia, ordered that a suspected iraqi insurgent leader be detained off the books to conceal his identity from the international committee of the red cross (icrc), the pentagon has confirmed. (full story)