Dutch defense minister forces U.S. to close Guantanamo prison

Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp said Thursday he wanted to see the U.S. close its military prison in Guantanamo Bay, echoing an opinion expressed by Germany's new chancellor, Angela Merkel. Kamp told Dutch Radio 1 it was unacceptable that Guantanamo prisoners are not afforded regular human rights guarantees under the Geneva Conventions.

The United States has argued that the conventions do not apply to the inmates, who as suspected members of the al-Qaida terror group and Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime were outside recognized governments. "Either you treat them as soldiers or you treat them as civilians, but not something in between. The essence of Guantanamo Bay is that the Americans believe it is something in between. I don't share that opinion," Kamp said.

"In the ideal situation, Guantanamo Bay no longer exists," he said. Merkel made similar comments last week, but said she would not press the issue during a trip to the United States starting Thursday. The prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, on the eastern tip of Cuba, has been used to detain hundreds of alleged terrorists for up to several years without trial. Many were held for years without being charged or having access to lawyers.

Human rights groups say the detentions violate the 1946 Geneva Conventions and international law. Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot has vowed to press the United States to abide by the Geneva Conventions, even when dealing with suspected terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands was struggling with an internal political crisis holding up a decision to send up to 1,400 troops to Afghanistan as part of a new NATO mission.

The Dutch, who would be sending the troops to the volatile southern Uruzgan province, sought guarantees from Afghan leaders that prisoners would be treated fairly and detainees held at a facility monitored by the international Red Cross, reports the AP. N.U.

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