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US seeks death penalty for Guantánamo detainees

The Pentagon announced on Monday that it has charged six “high-value” detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The US government is seeking the death penalty against the six men. A spokesperson for Amnesty International condemned the move, saying the charges raise yet more questions about the USA’s conduct in the “war on terror”. “A matter of weeks after the United Nations General Assembly voted for an end to executions, the USA is raising the spectre of death sentences after fundamentally flawed trials in Guantánamo. The international community must challenge the USA to drop these military commissions and conduct trials in front of independent and impartial courts, without resort to the death penalty,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on USA. Five of the six men charged were held for more than three years in secret CIA custody at unknown locations before being transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006. The CIA has also confirmed that at least one of the men charged, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was subjected to “waterboarding” – simulated drowning. “Waterboarding is torture, and torture is an international crime. No one has been held accountable for such crimes. Impunity in relation to the CIA program remains a hallmark of the USA’s conduct in the ‘war on terror,’” said Rob Freer. “Ever since the crime against humanity that was committed on 11 September 2001, Amnesty International has called on the USA to pursue justice and security within a framework of respect for human rights and the rule of law. The US government’s systematic failure to do this is illustrated not only by the treatment of these six detainees over the past five years or more, but also by the military commissions before which they are set to appear.” The sixth man charged is Mohamed al-Qahtani, who was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Guantánamo in late 2002. Despite suffering sexual and other humiliation, sleep deprivation, hooding, stripping, loud music, white noise, and extremes of heat and cold, the Pentagon concluded that his treatment did not amount to inhumane treatment. “The Pentagon, along with the President, has overarching influence over the operation of the military commissions,” said Rob Freer. “In other words, these sub-standard tribunals lack independence from the same executive branch that has authorized and condoned systematic human rights violations committed against these detainees.” TAKE ACTION: Say no to illegal US detentions