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Financial Times
18-06-05, 11:32
Rights group attacks move to expand Guantánamo Bay

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

June 17 2005

Amnesty International on Friday condemned the US decision to expand the Guantánamo Bay detention facility with a new detention camp, calling the prison a “symbol of abuse”.

The Pentagon this week awarded Halliburton, the Houston oil-services company, a basic $30m (€24.5m, £16.4m) contract to build a camp and security fence at Guantánamo, which houses about 520 detainees captured in the war on terror. The full contract could be worth up to $500m to Halliburton.

“Guantánamo has become a symbol of abuse and represents a system of detention that is betraying the best US values as well as undermining international standards,” said Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty. The decision to expand Guantánamo comes at a time when the White House has been forced to rebut criticism the prison is fuelling anti-US sentiment overseas.

Democrats have been reluctant to criticise the administration over the war on terror since the September 11 2001 attacks on Washington and New York. But in recent weeks, a growing chorus of Democrats, and some Republicans, have called on the administration to close the prison.

The White House on Thursday hit out at Senator Dick Durbin, a senior Democrat, who compared interrogation practices at Guantánamo with methods used by the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot in Cambodia. Scott McClellan, White House press secretary, said his comments were “reprehensible”.

The Pentagon has charged only four of the 520 prisoners at Guantánamo. A federal court last year halted the first military trial of a Guantánamo detainee, ruling that the process did not conform with US military law.

President George W. Bush last week appeared to suggest that the US might consider closing Guantánamo, but a string of US officials have since said the US has no plans to close the prison at the moment.

“There are no present plans to close Guantánamo, but we continue to look at every activity that we are engaged in. . . to make sure we are doing everything we can to effectively protect the people of the United States,” Alberto Gonzales, US attorney-general, said on Friday.