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‘Too nice’ jail commander is fired

[ InformationClearingHouse.info has brought another relevant piece out of the vault … from 2002. –BL ]

October 17 2002 | Sydney Morning Herlad

Relieved of his command … Brigadier-General Rick Baccus was accused of wanting to allow the [Guantanamo Bay] prisoners too many human rights.

The commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp – who was criticised in the United States press for being too soft on the inmates – has been dismissed.

Brigadier-General Rick Baccus was relieved of his duties as camp commander and as an officer in the Rhode Island National Guard on October 9, five days after a newspaper report quoted military sources as saying he was “too nice” to the 598 inmates, and was consequently making it hard for interrogators to extract information from them.

The dismissal came as 12 Kuwaiti prisoners mounted the first organised legal and diplomatic effort to challenge the US policy that holds terrorism suspects indefinitely at Guantanamo without court hearings or charges being filed.

Officials at the base said General Baccus had left because his unit, responsible for running Camp Delta, had been merged with Joint Task Force 170, a combined unit drawn from the Defence Intelligence Agency, CIA and FBI, which questions the inmates.

In August General Baccus told journalists that uniformed officers had concerns that the Guantanamo Bay inmates continued to be labelled “enemy combatants” rather than “prisoners of war”, a classification that would give them more rights under the Geneva Convention.

On October 4 The Washington Times reported that the chief interrogator, Major-General Michael Dunlavey, was irritated by the prisoners’ treatment, particularly by General Baccus’s decision to let the Red Cross put up posters reminding inmates they need only provide their interrogators with their name, rank and number. General Dunlavey has since taken over General Baccus’s duties.

The Kuwaiti prisoners are largely backed by the Government of Kuwait, a US ally, in a case that gives voice for the first time to those captured in the war in Afghanistan and shipped to the makeshift prison in Cuba.

The 12 captives contend they are not members of al-Qaeda, nor the Taliban, but charity workers who were helping refugees created by Afghanistan’s harsh regime when they were caught up in the chaos of the war last northern autumn and winter. In trying to flee to Pakistan, they say, they fell into the hands of Pakistanis who “sold” them to US troops, collecting a bounty.

Their families have retained a Washington firm that specialises in international law.

The Guardian, Los Angeles Times

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