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Guantanamo Bay Cuba Controversy - VOA Story

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Uploaded on Sep 22, 2007

The U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is surrounded by controversy. Suspects in America's war on terrorism are held there, and not only do human rights groups criticize the detentions, but criticism also is coming from within the Pentagon.

When cameras are allowed into Guantanamo, the military is keen to stress that things have changed from the months just after September 11th, 2001.

Camp X-Ray is now abandoned and replaced with modern facilities that house state-of-the-art hospitals, classrooms and new cells.

Opposition now is not so much focused on the conditions at Guantanamo Bay, but on the legal process that terrorist suspects face.

Following U.S. Supreme Court rulings that rejected the White House's claim that detainees are beyond the reach of U.S. and international law, Bush administration officials put in place a military commission system that allows detainees to challenge the charges against them.

And part of the the plan -- Pentagon lawyers to represent the detainees.

The Bush administration defends the use of military commissions -- saying all those charged were involved in terrorism.

The Bush administration says it is working towards shutting down the detention center at Guantanamo, but that may not be easy. "The Geneva Convention says we are allowed to detain enemy combatants through the hostilities and the requirement is that when the hostilities are over you must release or repatriate them. However, in this war, there is no end in sight," said Haben.

Former Secretary of State General Colin Powell is among those who contend U.S. civilian courts should handle terrorist suspects. And military attorney Bill Keubler argues that just closing Guantanamo is not enough. He says the whole system of military commissions needs to be scrapped.

Critics of the military commissions point to civilian trials of terror suspects like those who were convicted of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa as evidence that the U.S. federal courts can handle justice when it comes to terrorism. But some in the Bush administration continue to maintain that this new kind of war that the U.S. is fighting in the wake of the September 11th attacks needs a new approach.

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