[JURIST] Leaders of the both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches have sharply criticized the US prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] as international pressure builds to close down the controversial facility that currently contains almost 500 individuals the US government has termed enemy combatants. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams [official profile], the English head of the worldwide Anglican communion that includes the Episcopal Church in the United States, called Guantanamo "an extraordinary legal anomaly" Sunday in a BBC interview, echoing language previously used [JURIST report] by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He added, "Any message given that any state can just override some of the basic habeas corpus-type provisions is going to be very welcome to tyrants elsewhere in the world, now and in the future," apparently referring to US government contentions [JURIST report] that the Constitution does not guarantee aliens held by the US abroad a right to habeas corpus. Williams' statement follows even more direct criticism of the US leveled by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, the number-two cleric in the Church of England, who last week slammed [ACNS release] Blair's language and Guantanamo in no uncertain terms:
This is not an anomaly. By declaring war on terror President Bush is perversely applying the rules of engagement which apply in a war situation. But the prisoners are not being regularly visited by the Red Cross or Red Crescent, which is required by the Geneva Convention. They were not even allowed to be interviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Group.Reuters has more.
In Uganda President Amin did something similar: he did not imprison suspects because he knew that in prison the law would apply to them, so he created special places to keep them. If the Guantanamo Bay detainees were on American soil, the law would apply. This is a breach of international law and a blight on the conscience of America.
Meanwhile Vatican [official website, English] minister for justice and peace Cardinal Renato Martino, speaking to the Italian news agency ANSA after a trip to Cuba, said Friday that, "It seems clear that in this prison man's dignity is not being respected at all." Martino's criticism was the Vatican's first direct comment on Guantanamo. Jang News has more.