(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy has asked the Bush administration to release video tapes allegedly showing the physical and mental abuse of detainees at a detention center in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. Leahy says it’s clear that the administration wants to keep these tapes secret as long as it can.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports
(Kinzel) The disclosure that the United States Army routinely videotaped the interrogation of detainees at Guatanamo Bay comes at a time when the Defense Department is dealing with cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq. Leahy has formally requested that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld release all of the Guantanamo Bay videotapes to a number of congressional committees.
Roughly 600 detainees are being held at a detention center in Cuba; virtually all of them are suspected members of al Qaeda or the Taliban, and were captured in Afghanistan. The Defense Department considers them to be enemy combatants. As a result, the Bush administration maintains that the provisions of the Geneva Convention concerning the humane treatment of prisoners do not apply to the detainees.
Leahy says the tapes need to be released so that members of Congress can determine if patterns of abuse were used on a regular basis to get information from the detainees:
(Leahy) “I think the tapes exist. What bothers me is that it’s just one more thing kept secret by this administration and I want to know if it shows mistakes on their part. We know that the administration goes to great, great efforts to hide anything that has a mistake on their part. And I want to make sure whether they are doing that. Again, their reluctance to bring forward any information is very, very troubling.”
(Kinzel) Because the Bush administration has classified the detainees as enemy combatants, the individuals can be held at the detention center for an indefinite period of time. Some have been at the center for more than two years.
Leahy says the administration is using a double standard by insisting that prisoners of war in Iraq are subject to the Geneva Conventions but the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not.
(Leahy) “The one thing that is the same in both places is the United States of America. We set basically the standards of human rights for the world. And the question is going to be, are we following our own standards? You might say one is Geneva convention, and the other is not Geneva Convention. Actually that’s a distinction that’s going to be lost on the rest of the world. They’re going to say, this is the United States. How does the United States behave?”
(Kinzel) Leahy has requested that all copies of the videotapes of interrogations at Guantanamo Bay be delivered to the appropriate committees of Congress by the beginning of next week.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.