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Europe rights body accuses US of torture

Cites treatment at Guantanamo

STRASBOURG, France -- Europe's human rights body condemned the United States yesterday for using what it termed torture on terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it called on European countries not to cooperate in interrogating Guantanamo detainees.

A Pentagon spokesman said the United States was running ''a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terror."

In a resolution, the Council of Europe also urged the United States to cease the practice of secret detentions and to investigate all instances of unlawful treatment of detainees at the naval base in eastern Cuba.

''The circumstances surrounding detentions by the USA at Guantanamo Bay show unlawfulness on grounds including the torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees," said the resolution, adopted by the Council's Parliamentary Assembly.

While supporting the United States in its efforts to fight terrorism, the resolution said Washington had ''betrayed its own highest principles in the zeal with which it has attempted to pursue the war on terror."

The US government has denied using torture at the base, but investigations into alleged abuse there are ongoing.

''US policy condemns and prohibits torture," Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Commander Flex Plexico said. ''US personnel are required to follow this policy and applicable law."

He said Guantanamo detainees receive adequate shelter and clothing, culturally appropriate meals, the Koran, prayer beads, access to mail and reading materials, and medical care.

About 520 detainees from more than 40 countries remain at Guantanamo, many of them captured during the war in Afghanistan launched after the Sept. 11 attacks.

More than 200 people have been released, but many were freed on the condition they would be held by their home countries.

''What we see in Guantanamo has nothing to do with justice," council member Boris Oliynik said. ''The conditions there are medieval."

The resolution also criticizes the practice of ''rendition," or removing suspects to other countries without judicial supervision for purposes of interrogation or detention.

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