Council of Europe to debate resolution urging end to "unlawful" practices at Guantanamo

Europe's leading human rights watchdog is to discuss a resolution next week urging the United States not to use what it describes as torture at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

A draft of the resolution expected to be passed next Tuesday by the Council of Europe, which represents 46 European countries, says the United States tortures prisoners at the naval base in Cuba, violates their rights relating to prisoner-of-war status and infringes on their rights to judicial review of their cases.

"The U.S. government has betrayed its own highest principles in the zeal with which it has attempted to pursue the war on terror," says the draft resolution, obtained by the Associated Press Friday. It also calls for all terrorist suspects held at the naval base to be given the right to a fair trial.

"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," the draft says.

The U.S. government has denied using torture at the base, but investigations into abuse are under way at the detention camp.

Some 520 detainees from more than 40 countries remain at Guantanamo, many of them prisoners from the war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. More than 200 people have been released, but many were freed on the condition they would be held by their home countries.

While not legally binding, "the resolution is an additional argument for those in the United States who question the current practices. It aims to strengthen the rule of law," Jan Kleijssen, the Council's Director for Institutional Relations, told the AP.

The Council of Europe's resolution comes after the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, rejected by 22 votes to 8 a call to investigate the situation of detainees at Guantanamo. Twenty-three countries abstained.

Cuba was joined by China, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sudan, Malaysia, Guatemala and Mexico in voting Thursday for the human rights resolution, which noted "serious concern" expressed by U.N. experts on the situation of the suspects held at the base.

In its own resolution, the Council of Europe also criticizes the practice of "rendition" - the removal of suspects to other countries without judicial supervision for purposes of interrogation or detention.

It also calls on European countries not to permit their authorities to participate or assist in the interrogation of Guantanamo detainees and to refuse to comply with U.S. requests for extradition of terrorist suspects to the base.

The Council of Europe "shares the United States' determination to combat international terrorism and fully endorses the importance of detecting and preventing terrorist crimes, but ... this must be on condition that all measures taken are respectful of human rights and the rule of law," the draft of the resolution says.

JAN SLIVA, Associated Press Writer

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