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Church groups urge closure of Guantanamo camp

The US National Council of Churches has reiterated a demand for the closure of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, following the suicides of three prisoners there.

"Americans who love their country and its historic ideals are mortified by this continuing blot on our honour, on our steadfast defence of freedom, and on our commitment to democracy and the rule of law," said the Rev. Robert Edgar, the council’s general secretary.

The inmates, two Saudis and a Yemeni, hanged themselves in their cells in the detention centre at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba, which houses prisoners the US has said may have been involved in terrorist activities. Most detainees have been held without charge for up to four and a half years.

The suicides were "another milestone in a sordid history of human rights denial and crimes against humanity", said Edgar in an 11 June statement. In February, he asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the council to be allowed to send a delegation to the centre. She has not yet responded to the request.

In Paris, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture called for the centre to be closed and for all detainees to be brought to trial or released.

"No democracy should be allowed to disregard international law with such impunity," the group said on 13 June.

In an editorial, the New York Times newspaper described the suicides "as the inevitable result of creating a netherworld of despair beyond the laws of civilised nations, where men were to be held without any hope of decent treatment, impartial justice or, in so many cases, even eventual release".

The newspaper also criticised remarks by the facility’s commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris Jr, who said the suicides were "not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us". Such comments, The New York Times stated, "reveal a profound disassociation from humanity. They say more about why Guantanamo Bay should be closed than any United Nations report ever could."

(c) Ecumenical News International