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Berkeley Researchers Urge Guantanamo Camp Closure

This story was written by Leslie Troy, Daily Californian

UC Berkeley faculty urged that the controversial detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay be closed down based on research findings in a new report sent to Barack Obama's transition team.

Guantanamo Bay could conceivably be shut down within the first 100 days of the Obama administration, said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

"The magnitude of the Bush administration's interrogation policy needs to be matched by the magnitude of the Obama administration's mechanisms to fix it," Warren said.

Warren joined report authors Laurel Fletcher, the director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at Boalt Hall School of Law, and Eric Stover, the director of the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center, in presenting findings based on interviews with 62 former detainees from Guantanamo Bay, along with personnel working at the camp.

The report authors recommended establishing a commission of inquiry that would review United States detainment and interrogation practices.

"Closing Guantanamo, which has been a lot in the news lately, is not enough," Fletcher said. "We need this review in order to move on."

The proposed commission would ideally be nonpartisan and composed of up to a dozen experts in the fields of law, medicine and military intelligence, according to the researchers.

The report found that the cumulative effects of various interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay created psychological problems for former detainees. Out of those interviewed, two-thirds reported problems, including outbursts, social withdrawal and nightmares.

"We raise the question," Stover said, "whether this cumulative effect in fact could in many cases arise to the level of torture as defined under international domestic law."

Those released without ever being charged with a crime were still thought to be dangerous by their hometown communities and even their families, according to the researchers. Only six out of the 62 interviewees were able to find stable employment.

"While most of them express anger and disappointment at the United States, they distinguished between their attitude towards the United States government, which was negative, and the American people, against whom they held no grudge," Fletcher said.

UC Berkeley political science lecturer Terri Bimes said it will be hard to predict how much influence this report will have on the upcoming administration. However, she added that Obama has already made his position against Guantanamo Bay public.

"It's already on his agenda, so (the report) will definitely reinforce that agenda item," she said.

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