Obama sends mixed message

Last Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2009 11:48 hrs

London: President Barack Obama has not yet managed to shake off the legacy of torture, impunity and unlawful detention he inherited from the previous U.S. administration, a leading human rights organization said Wednesday.

Barack Obama's first 100 days in office

An Amnesty International report said Obama's administration had made some important decisions on torture and human rights in his first hundred days in office, but more needs to be done, especially at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"From the perspective of the detainees, the change in administration has meant pretty much nothing," said Rob Freer, one of the report's authors. "Some of them have been held for seven years and need their cases resolved quickly."

The report comes as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder travels through Europe, seeking support from U.S. allies in closing Guantanamo by early next year.

Several European nations, including Portugal, Britain and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking some detainees. Others, including Germany, are divided on the issue.

Obama has ordered Guantanamo closed within 12 months and rejected harsh interrogation techniques used by the Bush administration that are broadly condemned as torture.

Approximately 240 detainees are still being held at Guantanamo. Only one %u2014 Ethiopian national and British resident Binyam Mohamed %u2014 has been released since Obama took office. No one has been charged under the new administration.

Amnesty International argues that Obama's administration should have changed former President George W. Bush's policy that no Guantanamo detainees would be released into the U.S. mainland.

"Guantanamo is the creation of the U.S.," said Freer. "They are going to need assistance and other countries need to do what they can do to solve the situation, but it is ultimately the U.S. responsibility."

Amnesty also points out that Obama has not changed the U.S. policy on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where hundreds of detainees are thought to be held with no access to the outside world.

"The closure of Guantanamo must mark the end of the policies and practices it embodies, not merely shift those violations elsewhere, whether to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan or anywhere else," the report said.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said it is too early for organizations to start criticizing Obama's administration on Guantanamo and its human rights policies.

"I think it's too early to start drawing conclusions about the administration's policies on this subject," he said. "We've been very clear, however, that this administration is taking a different approach to dealing with these extremists."

He added that the case of each Guantanamo detainee is being reviewed and will be dealt with in a fair manner.

More from Sify: