Thu Jun 17, 3:44 PM ET - By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is holding terrorism
suspects in more than two dozen detention centers worldwide and about half of these operate in total secrecy, said a human rights report released on Thursday.
Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in a report that secrecy surrounding these facilities made "inappropriate detention and abuse not only likely but inevitable."
"The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib cannot be addressed in isolation," said Deborah Pearlstein, director of the group's U.S. Law and Security program, referring to the U.S. Naval base prison in Cuba and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq (news - web sites) where abuses are being investigated.
"This is all about secrecy, accountability and the law," Pearlstein told a news conference.
The report coincided with news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered military officials to hold a suspect in a prison near Baghdad without telling the Red Cross. Pearlstein said this would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions and Defense Department directives.
She said thousands of security detainees were being held by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan (news - web sites) as well as locations elsewhere which the military refused to disclose.
"The U.S. government is holding prisoners in a secret system of off- shore prisons beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability of law," said the report.
LIST OF DETENTION CENTERS
Pearlstein said multiple sources reported U.S. detention centers in, among other places, Kohat in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan, on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and at Al Jafr prison in Jordan, where the group said the CIA (news - web sites) had an interrogation facility.
Prisoners are also being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and others were suspected of being held on U.S. warships.
A defense department spokesman told Reuters he would comment when he had more information about the report.
Pearlstein called for the U.S. authorities to end "secret detentions," provide a list of prisoners, investigate abuses and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross unfettered access to detainees.
U.S. treatment of detainees came under the spotlight after disturbing photos were leaked to the media showing U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners.
The United States is conducting several investigations into these abuses but Pearlstein said these were not enough and a full court of inquiry should be ordered.
Families of suspects detained by U.S. authorities have complained strongly about the lack of information about detainees held by U.S. authorities since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.
Pakistani Farhat Paracha said via a telephone link-up at the news conference that she tried for weeks to find her husband, Saifullah Paracha, who disappeared last June when he took a business trip from Pakistan to Thailand.
Paracha said she asked the U.S. and Pakistani governments to track him down and only learned about his whereabouts when the Red Cross contacted her six weeks later to say her husband was being held at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
"I feel disgusted. It makes my heart sink. I feel so powerless and so helpless," said Paracha.