US ‘using prison ships in war on terror’
Human rights lawyers claim the United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror.
The lawyers also claim there’s been an effort to conceal the number and whereabouts of detainees, a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper says.
Information about the operation of prison ships had emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners, the report said.
The analysis – to be published later this year by the human rights group Reprieve – also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when US President George W Bush declared that the practice had stopped.
Research carried out by Reprieve said the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001.
Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.
Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleliu, The Guardian report said.
A further 15 ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, which has been used as a military base by the United Kingdom and the Americans.
Reprieve intends to raise specific concerns involving the USS Ashland when it was situated off Somalia early last year, conducting maritime security operations in an effort to capture al-Qaeda terrorists.
At this time, many people were abducted by Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in a systematic operation involving regular interrogations by individuals believed to be members of the FBI and CIA, The Guardian report said.
Ultimately more than 100 individuals were “disappeared” to prisons in locations including Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Guantanamo Bay, it said.
The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantanamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate’s story of detention on an amphibious assault ship.
“One of my fellow prisoners in Guantanamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantanamo … he was in the cage next to me.” the prisoner said, according to The Guardian report.
“He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship.
“The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantanamo.”
Reprieve’s legal director Clive Stafford Smith said the use of ships was a perfect way to avoid scrutiny.
“They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights,” he said.
“By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001.
“The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”
A US navy spokesman, Commander Jeffrey Gordon, told The Guardian that “there are no detention facilities on US navy ships”.
But he said it was a matter of public record that some individuals had been put on ships “for a few days” during what he called the initial days of detention.
Source: The guardian