EU parliamentarians are stepping up the pressure on European governments to get the United States to shut down its controversial prison at Guantanamo Bay and set up an international tribunal in its place.
EU parliamentarians want to prevent further human rights violations at Guantanamo
Elmar Brok, head of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Thursday that the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down and replaced with an international tribunal, in an interview for the Web site of German TV news program "Tagesschau."
"Those who committed criminal offences should be put on trial," Brok said. "A number of inmates certainly deserve to be sentenced. But those who are not proven guilty must be released. That is the risk of a constitutional state."
The US camp -- which hit the headlines again after three inmates simultaneously committed suicide on June 10 -- has long been a cause of concern for the European bloc.
"We (European parliamentarians) recommend the establishment of a special international tribunal, similar to the one established for the war criminals from the Balkans," Brok said. "That could be a way out. Above all, it would then be possible for the West to appear trustworthy again in the fight against terror."
Torture must stop
Elmar Brok heads the EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee
The European Parliament called on European leaders on Tuesday to use a high-level EU-US summit next week in Vienna to demand that Washington close its prison camp in Guantanamo.
In a resolution, the assembly urged EU members to "institute a joint action calling on the US government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and act in accordance with international law regarding the treatment of detainees."
It called on them to "adopt a common approach" ahead of the Vienna summit with US President George W. Bush.
The EU parliament resolution reaffirmed that all Guantanamo inmates should be treated in accordance with international humanitarian law and, if charged, be granted a swift, fair, public and independent trial.
It called on Washington to prevent the use of so-called "special interrogation techniques" which constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment -- such as sexual humiliation, "short shackling," in which detainees' hands are shackled to the floor, and the use of dogs to induce fear.
Guantanamo is giving plenty of ammunition to US critics
A big mistake
While Washington does not acknowledge that the more than 450 detainees in Guantanamo are prisoners of war or entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions, the US has been under increasing pressure from European governments, a UN human rights panel and various rights groups regarding the conditions at Guantanamo.
"It must be made clear to the Americans that they need us in the war against terror and that they cannot simply determine the strategy on their own," Brok said. "And we know exactly that we can win the struggle only if we take into account our own moral concepts."
For many critics of the US anti-terror policies, however, Guantanamo has become a symbol of utter disrespect for basic human values.
"In addition to the respect for human rights and constitutional principles, another important factor is that no power in the world can win a war if it loses it on the public relations field," Brok said. "That is also why Guantanamo has been a big mistake for the Americans."
US feeling the pressure
US President George Bush is recognizing the problems caused by Guantanamo
After returning from a surprise visit to Baghdad, US President Bush said on Wednesday he would like to shut down Guantanamo, but that some detainees were too dangerous to release.
"We'd better have a plan to deal with them in our courts," Bush told a White House news conference.
Bush said the best way to handle Guantanamo detainees, many picked off the battlefields of Afghanistan as suspected Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives, was through military courts.
The US administration is waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision on the legality of military tribunals being held at Guantanamo. The ruling is imminent.