US releases partial list of Guantanamo detainees

The Pentagon has released under court order, a partial list of names and nationalities of the nearly 500 foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, but withheld data on the rest.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 13:17 IST

The Pentagon has released under court order on Friday, a partial listing of names and nationalities of the nearly 500 foreign terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, but withheld data on the rest.

Starting with the arrival from Afghanistan of the first group of 20 shackled and masked detainees on Jan. 11, 2002, the United States has never released the names and nationalities of all the prisoners at the controversial camp.

While incomplete, the new list was the most extensive made public by the government to date.

The Pentagon released more than 5,000 pages of documents relating to hearings conducted at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by military panels reviewing the cases of detainees.

Curt Goering, a senior official with Amnesty International USA, called upon the Pentagon to release a complete list of detainees at Guantanamo as well as at facilities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"It is like kicking and screaming and pulling teeth to get any piece of information" on detainees from the Pentagon, Goering said.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said the documents contained files on about 317 detainees. He said there are about 490 detainees currently at Guantanamo.

The detainees' names, often without their nationalities clearly stated, were strewn throughout the voluminous documents, making a precise count difficult.

Only 10 of the detainees at Guantanamo have been charged with a crime, and human rights activists have condemned the indefinite detentions and the prisoners' lack of legal rights.

U.N. rights investigators have called for the closure of the prison.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff last month ordered the Pentagon to release transcripts of detainee hearings by Friday as part of a lawsuit filed by the Associated Press.

Because the lawsuit did not seek data on detainees who refused to take part in the military hearings, Whitman said, their names and nationalities would not be released.

Asked why the Pentagon did not release a complete list, Whitman said, "There is a concern that there could be potential harm to the detainees if personal information such as their name was a matter of public record."

Rights lawyers said the Pentagon deserved little credit for this.

"If Judge Rakoff had not ordered the release of these names, the department would never have released them," said Bill Goodman, legal director for the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents numerous detainees.

"And that just adds to the levels of secrecy that surround the detentions at Guantanamo, the lack of transparency and the overall absence of anything that would resemble what Americans have gotten used to describing as justice or due process."

The documents detail testimony by detainees, describing how and where they were caught, what kind of guerrilla training they had, and some of their beliefs.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 13:17 IST