Vatican presses US on Guantanamo inmate treatment

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 12:23 PM

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican on Monday asked the U.S. to find an "adequate humanitarian solution" for prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, a reflection of Pope Francis' vocal concern that prisoners be treated with dignity and not be subject to inhumane treatment.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made the request during a Vatican meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the two sides discussed the U.S. commitment to closing the facility. He said Parolin expressed the Holy See's desire that "favorable attention be paid to finding adequate humanitarian solutions for current inmates."

Pope Francis has spoken forcefully about the need to protect prisoners' rights and dignity, and has dedicated much time as archbishop of Buenos Aires and as pope to ministering to inmates. Just this past weekend, he sent a letter of Christmas greetings to inmates at a prison in Latina, urging them to use their time in detention for personal and spiritual growth.

Without citing the U.S. by name, Francis has also harshly criticized extraordinary renditions, which the CIA used after the Sept. 11 attacks to take terror suspects to third countries for interrogation, and often torture.

He has also denounced life prison terms as a "hidden death penalty," and said putting inmates in isolation was a form of "physical and psychological torture."

President Barack Obama has launched a new push to close Guantanamo, and recently a dozen prisoners were transferred out, leaving about 130 from a high of 700 on the U.S. base in Cuba.

A senior U.S. State Department official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter and demanded anonymity, said Kerry "described recent progress in our diplomatic efforts to transfer detainees to third countries, including to Uruguay."

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Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper contributed from Rome.

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