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Guantanamo inmates threat to world: US

The US State Dept's legal adviser has said that releasing detainees would allow dangerous combatants to target civilians worldwide.

india Updated: May 26, 2006 11:56 IST

The US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, does not violate international law, and releasing detainees would allow dangerous combatants to target innocent civilians worldwide, the US State Department's legal adviser told a global Internet audience.

In a webchat on Thursday, John B Bellinger III stressed that it has been a common practice throughout the history of warfare to hold enemy fighters in custody until hostilities end.

Approximately 460 detainees were being held in Guantanamo as of May 18, the most recent date for which numbers were available, the Pentagon has said.

In many cases, enemy fighters captured on battlefields in Afghanistan have broken no American laws and could not be tried in civil courts, yet they continue to pose a severe wartime danger, said Bellinger, senior legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Approximately 290 detainees have been released from Guantanamo -- either set free or turned over to the custody of another government.

Bellinger said the US government does not believe that any detainee at Guantanamo Bay has been subjected to torture.

He did acknowledge isolated cases in which Americans have illegally abused people being held in US custody, but he said those cases have been dealt within the American legal system, with 89 service members convicted in court-martial.

We are aware that some critics have alleged that the detention of detainees for a long period without trial amounts to psychological torture but we do not agree, Bellinger said adding that in any armed conflict, the enemy combatants of the opposing side are held until the end of the conflict.

It may be stressful, but that does not make it torture and illegal in any sense.

Bellinger led a team of more than two-dozen senior US officials to Geneva last week to present oral and written reports to the UN Committee against torture.

The exhaustive US presentation included more than 200 pages of written answers to questions that centered on the conduct of US detention operations around the world.

First Published: May 26, 2006 11:56 IST