Amnesty International has sharply criticized conditions at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a report released on Thursday, the organization said around 80 percent of the 385 inmates are being held in "cruel conditions of isolation" with almost no contact with the outside world.
"While the United States has an obligation to protect its citizens" the report said, "that does not relieve the United States from the responsibilities to comply with human rights."
Earlier moves to relax the conditions and to increase opportunities for socialization among detainees seem to have been reversed, Amnesty said. The isolated prisoners are now spending 22 hours alone in a windowless cell with no natural light or fresh air. They exercise alone, often at night and can go for days without seeing daylight. Inmates have their meals alone in their cells, which are constantly lit, and they are observed 24 hours a day.
Amnesty is particularly critical of the fact that the inmates have no opportunity to improve their conditions through good behavior. Even the 80 inmates that the Pentagon says it intends to release soon are being subjected to the same harsh treatment.
The report says that conditions deteriorated following the opening of the Camp 6 facility last December. The new camp is modelled on "super-max" high-security prisons in the US. According to Amnesty, the new facility "created even harsher and apparently more permanent conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation." The report criticizes the conditions at Camp 6 and two other maximum security camps at the base.
The Amnesty report is based on statements by lawyers and prisoners as well as photographs of the facility released by the US military.
Amnesty says it fears that the conditions are damaging the prisoners' mental and physical well-being. The organization's UK director Kate Allen told the BBC the process at Guantanamo was a "travesty of justice." She said that "with many prisoners already in despair at being held in indefinite detention ... some are dangerously close to full-blown mental and physical breakdown."
The organization repeated its calls for Guantanamo to be closed and for the prisoners to be released or given a fair trial. It said that statements by the Bush administration "that these men are 'enemy combatants,' 'terrorists' or 'very bad people' do not justify the complete lack of due process rights."