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Last Updated: Monday, 12 April, 2004, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Rights plea over Guantanamo Bay
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
About 600 detainees are being held in Guantanamo Bay
A human rights conference in Yemen on Guantanamo Bay detainees has ended with a plea to the US to either release inmates or put them on trial.

A statement issued at the end of the two-day conference said the inmates' situation at the US base in Cuba was "an unprecedented human rights scandal".

The conference, attended by lawyers and families of detainees, was organised by Amnesty International.

About 600 detainees from more than 40 countries are being held at the base.

Most were captured during the US-led war in Afghanistan in late 2001, which followed the 11 September attacks in the US.

Washington says the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are "enemy combatants" who have no right to lawyers and may be held indefinitely without charge.

Many prisoners at the base have been held for two years without access to relatives or legal counsel.

Pressure

The "Sanaa appeal" released at the end of the conference urged the US to halt the deportation of inmates to countries known to have poor human rights records and give them access to rights groups.

This [US] policy promotes a world in which arbitrary and unchangeable detentions become acceptable
Javier Zuniga
Amnesty International spokesman

It also urged Gulf countries to put more pressure on the US to grant their citizens more rights.

Organisers said the conference was aimed at bringing together lawyers and families of detainees.

"This is the first time lawyers, families and activists [can] get together to try to network, to establish contacts with one another," Middle East Press officer for Amnesty International Nicole Choueiry told the Associated Press news agency.

"The ultimate goal is to allow families who have no access to lawyers to get access to them."

Khaled al-Anzi, who represents a Yemeni human rights group, told AP news agency that more than 60 families met separately with Amnesty and lawyers to sign documents retaining defence counsel for their relatives in the camp.

More than 100 of those held in Guantanamo Bay are thought to be from Yemen.

Since the 11 September attacks Yemen has cracked down on Islamic militants members in an attempt to shed its image as a haven for al-Qaeda supporters.

US special forces have been allowed to operate in the country.


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