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US to re-open court at Guantanamo

InternationalThe US government has announced that it plans to re-open the court at the Guantanamo Bay base in September, it hopes to process one prisoner each day, human rights groups say the trials will not be fair.

Family members will be allowed to meet detainees and the proceedings will be held in a court room with security cameras and tight security, prisoners will be chained to the floor as part of the security arrangements. Amnesty International has launched a campaign against the reinitiating of the proceedings, they say that the trials will be overseen by military officials and lack the full legal safeguards, and that evidence gained from torture could be used, leading to unfair trials. The base is one of a number including Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq that have been subject to controversy involving torture, prisoner treatment and the application of the legal rights of detainees.

A total of 520 prisoners are detained at the US base on Cuba under differing levels of security, the base\'s location is outside US territorial waters so it means that all prisoners do not come under the jurisdiction of US federal law which has added to the legal uncertainty of the detainees. Citizens from around 35 countries are being held at the base, leading to some international tension, a group of British detainees who had been picked up in Afghanistan and had been held at the base for three years were extradited to the UK and released after 24 hours of questioning by British Police.

The definition of the detainees as \'Illegal Combatants\' rather than \'Prisoners of War\' has lead to criticism due to the fact that the Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war and requires a certain set of conditions in terms of the style of detention and legal process, the definition as \'Illegal Combatants\' does not entitle them to the same requirements.

The location of the Camp Delta base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba has lead to increased tension between the US and Cuba, two countries that have tense relations already with the US operating an embargo on the communist state. A total of 3,000 Cubans worked at the base in 1958 when Fidel Castro took power in a revolution in Cuba, as the workers retired or moved onto other jobs the number has dwindled to three, with the youngest being 76. Most civilian workers at the base are either Jamaican or Filipino.

A severed water pipe is displayed at the border along with an explanatory sign saying \'On 17 Feb 1964 Rear Admiral John Bulkeley, commander Naval Base, ordered the water line be cut and a section removed to disprove accusation that the United States was stealing water from Cuba\'

The future status of the base is at present uncertain with the detainees in legal limbo and the US authorities unsure of how to prevent attacks by possible terrorists without resorting to measures outside the standard legal framework for dealing with either criminals or prisoners of war.

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