[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] defended the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in a news conference [transcript] Saturday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw [official profile] at the end of a UK visit. In response to questions on when Guantanamo might be closed, she insisted that:
the United States doesn't desire to keep Guantanamo in being any longer than it's needed because we don't want to be the world's jailer. That's not the United States because it's not U.S. policy.AP has more.
But we have to recognize that Guantanamo is there for a reason. It's there because we captured people on battlefields, particularly in Afghanistan but sometimes, frankly, on the battlefields of our own democratic societies, who were either plotting or planning or actively engaged in terrorist activities. And we have released hundreds of people from Guantanamo. It is not as if everybody who was in Guantanamo on October 1st, 2001 or January 1st, 2002 is still in Guantanamo. We have gone out of our way to try to release people. We've released British citizens back to Great Britain. We've done that with many different countries.
But there are some people who cannot either be safely be released to their countries or certainly safely released, and there are people for whom the value of the information that they have is still relevant to the fight against terror.
But I would just ask: What would be the alternative? If the alternative is to release people onto the streets so that they can do harm again, that we're not going to do. If the alternative is to try people, that we want to do. And we are looking for the means to do that, including the fact that the fate of military commissions is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and so I'll say nothing more about that since it's a court case.
But I want to assure you, the reasons for Guantanamo have to do with the necessities of keeping very dangerous people off the streets.
In February, the United Nations called for the US to close Guantanamo [JURIST report] in a 54-page report [PDF text; press release], and groups around the world have continued to call for the detention centers closure, including the European Parliament and Amnesty International. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed the UN report [JURIST report], stating that one cannot detain individuals in perpetuity and  charges have to be brought against them and be given a chance to explain themselves, and be prosecuted, charged or released. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has not gone quite as far, simply saying that Guantanamo is an anomoly which hopes will be closed [JURIST report] after an appropriate "judicial process."