Tuesday, May 16, 2006

US releases fullest Guantanamo jail list to date

US releases fullest Guantanamo jail list to date
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday issued its most comprehensive accounting to date of detainees currently or formerly held at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects, naming 759 people and their nationalities.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, a Pentagon spokesman, said the list named "every single individual detained under DoD (Department of Defense) control" at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since the jail opened in January 2002.

Asked whether that meant some detainees may have been held outside of Defense Department control at Guantanamo by other U.S. agencies like the CIA, Peppler said, "I wouldn't know because I can't speak for other agencies."

The 18-page list was disclosed and posted on a Pentagon Web site (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/detainees/detaineesFOIArelease15May2006.pdf) in conjunction with an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Associated Press. It listed detainees by name, citizenship, place of birth, date of birth and an internment identification number.

The Pentagon said there are "approximately 480" detainees at Guantanamo -- it declines to give a precise number -- and that since 2002 a total of 272 others have left the jail, either freed or transferred to the custody of their home governments for further detention.

In conjunction with the same Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Pentagon on April 19 released a list of 558 detainees who went through a military hearing process put in place at Guantanamo in summer 2004. That list included, officials said, all the current detainees.

The new list included the names of 201 detainees moved out of Guantanamo before the United States began holding these military hearings, the Pentagon said.


Amnesty International official Jumana Musa said the Pentagon's language describing the new list fed long-running speculation about whether the CIA held detainees at Guantanamo outside of military control.

Musa said it also begged the question of whether "ghost detainees" -- kept off the books and deprived of contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross -- have been held there.

"While we certainly think it's about time that the names of the folks who were in DoD custody were released, whether or not other government agencies held people in Guantanamo will remain an open question," said Musa, who has observed military hearings at the base.

Human rights activists decry the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees and accuse the United States of torture. The Pentagon insists detainees are treated humanely and not tortured, and says many dangerous al Qaeda and Taliban figures are held there.

The release of the list comes more than four years after the arrival from Afghanistan of the first group of 20 shackled and masked detainees on January 11, 2002. The Pentagon long resisted disclosing the names and nationalities of those held at the prison, citing security concerns such as keeping groups like al Qaeda in the dark about who was jailed.

Only 10 of the detainees have been charged with a crime, and not one of the trials has been completed. The United States classifies Guantanamo detainees as "enemy combatants" and not prisoners of war, thus denying them rights afforded POWs under the Geneva Conventions.

The British government's top legal adviser, Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, last week called for the closure of the Guantanamo jail, which he said had become a symbol of injustice.