Cardinal Renato Martino, president of Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, criticized the way the United States is treating some 500 inmates at its Guantanamo Bay naval base prison. Cardinal Martino visited the Caribbean island to attend celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the first bishops conference allowed following the Cuban revolution. He also held talks with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"It seems clear that human dignity is not being fully respected in that prison," Cardinal Renato Martino told ANSA on his return from a visit to Cuba .
"Is not the trampling of man's dignity a violation of human rights? Everyone has a right to a fair trial. Wherever in the world inmates are being held in such conditions, without even knowing the charges they face, we will not fail to defend them," said the cardinal, who heads the Vatican's Justice and Peace department .
"I would like to stress that even those who have committed crimes are still human beings and as such their dignity must be respected," said the cardinal .
Pope Benedict XVI referred to Guantanamo in a recent message to youths on world peace. Although he did not directly refer to alleged violations at the prison, the German pope called for the respect of international human rights accords, saying this was a fundamental "duty for everyone." There have been several reports of abuse and torture of detainees at the US naval base, where many prisoners have been held for four years without trial .
The camp was set up in 2002 to hold foreign terror suspects, many of them captured in Afghanistan .
Only ten prisoners being held at the prison have been formally charged with a crime. Washington has so far flatly refused to shut down the facility, denying accusations of torture and saying the prison is needed to confine what it calls "dangerous terrorists" .
In February, a US federal court judge ordered the Pentagon to publish a list of the roughly 490 Guantanamo inmates. Their names have been kept secret till now .