US Using Prison Ships for Detention of Suspects


The US has been operating “floating prisons” for the detention of suspects held without trial in the so called “war on terror” in order to conceal their numbers and locations. An analysis of the operation of prison ships, set to be published this year by the human rights organization Reprieve, has been compiled from the statements of the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners themselves.

The Reprieve study includes the account of a prisoner released from Guantánamo Bay, who described a fellow inmate’s story of detention on an amphibious assault ship. “One of my fellow prisoners in Guantánamo was at sea on an American ship with about 50 others before coming to Guantánamo … he was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other people on the ship. They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantánamo.


Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s legal director, said: “They choose ships to try to keep their misconduct as far as possible from the prying eyes of the media and lawyers. We will eventually reunite these ghost prisoners with their legal rights. By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001. The US government must show a commitment to rights and basic humanity by immediately revealing who these people are, where they are, and what has been done to them.”

Reprieve says that the US may have used up to 17 ships since 2001. The report also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since President George Bush declared in 2006 that the practice had stopped.


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