Guantanamo better than Belgian prisons-OSCE expert

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are
treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe’s
biggest security organization said on Monday after a visit to
the controversial U.S. detention center.

But Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels’ federal police
anti-terrorism unit, said that holding people for many years
without telling them what would happen to them is in itself
“mental torture.”

“At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model
prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian
prisons,” said Grignard.

He served as expert on a visit to Guantanamo Bay last week
by a group of lawmakers from the assembly of the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE).

Grignard’s comments came less than a month after a United
Nations report said that Guantanamo prison detainees faced
treatment amounting to torture.

Many of the 500 inmates in the prison at the U.S. naval
base in Cuba have been held for four years without trial. The
prisoners were mainly detained in Afghanistan and are held as
pat of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”

Grignard told a news conference that prisoners’ right to
practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were
better than in Belgian prisons.

“I know no Belgian prison where each inmate receives its
Muslim kit,” Grignard said.

Grignard said that while Guantanamo was not “idyllic,” he
had noticed dramatic improvements each time he visited the
facility over the last two years.

The head of the OSCE lawmakers in the delegation said she
was happy with the medical facilities at the camp, adding she
believed they had been improved recently.

Anne-Marie Lizin, chair of the Belgian Senate, told
reporters at the same news conference she saw no point in
calling for immediate closure of the detention camp.

“There needs to be a timetable for closure,” said Lizin,
but asking for immediate closure would have been unrealistic.

U.N. investigators last month demanded that the U.S.
government close the prison without further delay, alleging a
host of violations of human rights and torture.

They did not visit the site because they were not allowed
to conduct interviews with the prisoners.

Lizin said the OSCE parliamentary delegation was also
unable to talk to prisoners but had discussed the situation
with the International Red Cross which has access to them.

The OSCE plans to prepare a report by the end of May,
touching on the delegation’s concerns including the legal
situation of detainees, Lizin added.

The United States is a member of the 55-country OSCE.

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