Tags: Guantanamo | Will | Close | When | Bush | Goes | Lawyer

Guantanamo Will Close When Bush Goes, Lawyer Predicts

Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00 AM

ALTHORP - A leading human rights lawyer said he expected Guantanamo Bay prison to close when President George W. Bush leaves office but there were still 14,000 prisoners held by the United States in secret jails around the world.

"Guantanamo has achieved a huge amount -- all bad," said Clive Stafford Smith who criss-crosses the Atlantic trying to liberate detainees from the U.S. prison on Cuba.

Fighting the cases of more than 60 detainees -- he has succeeded in freeing 24 -- provoked Stafford Smith into writing "Bad Men: Guantanamo Bay and the Secret Prisons."

He says cooks, shopkeepers and television cameramen were tortured into admitting they worked for Osama bin Laden.

The United States is holding 380 foreign terrorism suspects at the camp which it opened in 2002. Their indefinite detention has provoked widespread international criticism while U.S. efforts to establish a system to try them have run into legal obstacles.

Stafford Smith said most of the 14,000 prisoners in secret jails were in Iraq.

The Bush administration was forced to rewrite the rules over Guantanamo last year after the Supreme Court deemed the old tribunals illegal. And in the latest twist this month, judges decided the fact that two defendants had been designated "enemy combatants" was not enough to try them by military commission.

"That was just another nail in the coffin for Guantanamo," Stafford Smith told Reuters at a literary festival being staged at the ancestral home of Princess Diana's brother Charles Spencer.

The lawyer believes "Guantanamo will definitely close and I think as soon as the current incumbent of the White House is out of office," he said.

A DIVERSION

But the Anglo-American lawyer with dual nationality, who has spent much of his life defending death row inmates in the United States, argued that Guantanamo had become a diversion.

"Just looking at the raw numbers, of the admitted prisoners in secret American custody today, Guantanamo represents just 2.7 percent. There are 14,000 in different prisons around the world," he said.

Bush confirmed in September last year that the CIA had run secret interrogation centers abroad but named no country.

Stafford Smith, legal director of the U.K.-based charity Reprieve, said: "On April 26, 2006 in the Congressional Record the official figure was 14,000 .... The majority, I'm sure, are held in Iraq.

"It is a place that my wife forbids me as a lawyer from going to defend them as it is a bit dangerous."

Reflecting on the fall-out from Guantanamo, Stafford Smith said it had been an effective recruiting sergeant for al Qaeda just as Britain's decision to impose internment without trial boosted Irish Republican Army volunteers in the fight to oust Britain from Northern Ireland.

One of the greatest casualties, the lawyer argued before flying back to Guantanamo to see four new Yemeni clients, was the dissolution of all the goodwill that had been directed towards the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

"I go around the Middle East and the word Guantanamo is synonymous with U.S. hypocrisy. It is very, very sad as it has taken away the American ability or right to propagate democracy," he concluded.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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ALTHORP - A leading human rights lawyer said he expected Guantanamo Bay prison to close when President George W. Bush leaves office but there were still 14,000 prisoners held by the United States in secret jails around the world. "Guantanamo has achieved a huge amount --...
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2007-00-17
Sunday, 17 June 2007 12:00 AM
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