Without trial, but under examination: 600 prisoners of whom it is only known that they exist

Under what conditions are those suspected of masterminding terrorist attacks on the USA held, what specifically are they accused of, and what kind of investigation do they undergo? It looks like all these questions cannot be answered at present. Even the names of those held are not disclosed. They have just vanished.

Over 600 people have been detained in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks, and they have for 2 months been kept behind bars under conditions of secrecy.

The other day, US Attorney General John Ashcroft confirmed this figure to journalists: there are over 600 suspects. At that, “over 600” may mean 601, while the upper limit remains unspecified. As Mr. Ashcroft puts it, “we think it is suspected Al-Qaeda members that are held in custody, and some of those detained are presumably terrorists.” The minister refused to name the detainees saying that such information should be deemed confidential “during wartime.” According to news agencies, this information has for the first time been shared with the mass media. However, this is not quite so. In late September, the US Justice Department mentioned hundreds of suspects (up to 400) who were held in prison in New York. American journalists then managed to unearth some details of the conditions in which the detainees were held. They were barred from communicating with each other and from contacting the outer world. No visits by relatives were allowed (the journalists were left guessing whether their relatives were aware at all of their detention)Also, there were time limitation imposed for consulting their lawyers. All this brings to mind scenes from GULAG life depicted by Alexander Slozhenitsyn. It has become known that the number of suspects has grown since September. It is quite strange. Given such an intensive investigation, some of the suspects should have been released. It should be noted that such tough measures do not apply in any of civilized countries, even if it is involved in the counter-terrorist campaign. Common people have so long been scared with the Cherkizovo prison in Chechnya, where dozens (not hundreds) of suspects were held, the majority of whom had been captured hot on the heels. By the way, international observers and humanitarian mission workers have so far had access to Cherkizovo inmates, and information about them has remained available to the their relatives and the journalists. Such rules are internationally accepted. It was the West that insisted on the full openness and access to the counter-terrorist operation zone in Chechnya for its observers.

Russia observes the rules. However, it turns out that the international laws were written for the “rest of the world.” The USA, having found itself attacked by terrorists, is quick to forget about human rights and about the laws which it until recently urged the entire world to observe, sometimes, using guns.

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/11/28/34294.html

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