President Vladimir Putin criticized “medieval” conditions at Guantanamo Bay as he backed lawmakers’ retaliation against U.S. human-rights sanctions that include a ban on adoptions of Russian children in America.
“At Guantanamo, they keep people in prison for years without any charges,” Putin told hundreds of journalists today at a news conference in Moscow. “People there go around in shackles, like in medieval times.”
Ties with the U.S. have deteriorated after Congress passed a bill this month that imposes a visa ban and asset freeze on Russian officials allegedly linked to the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and other human-rights abuses. Tensions are growing after Putin, who faced unprecedented protests over the past year, criticized U.S. efforts to promote democracy in his country and oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S. legislation has triggered a “mini crisis” in relations, Putin’s foreign-policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, said this week. In response, Russia is proposing a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children and the closing of non-government organizations that get U.S. funding. It also barred 11 serving and former U.S. administration officials in June for human- rights abuses at facilities including Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The restriction on entry to Russia was enacted last year in retaliation for a U.S. visa ban for 11 Russian officials accused of playing a role Magnitsky’s death. The U.S., legislation passed by the Senate this month, targets 60 officials accused of playing a role in Magnitsky’s death and a fraud that he uncovered as well as any other officials who carry out human- rights abuses such as murder and torture.
Magnitsky, an attorney for London-based Hermitage Capital, alleged a $230 million tax fraud by Russian officials. He died at age 37 in November 2009 after being beaten to death and denied medical care during almost a year in pre-trial detention on fabricated tax-evasion charges, according to a Russian presidential human-rights body.
The U.S. Supreme Court in December 2009 refused to revive a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other military leaders by four British men who said they were tortured while imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, a detention center at the U.S. military base in Cuba. Abu Ghraib photographs showing U.S. guards mistreating inmates surfaced in 2004.
In an interview with Fox News last February, Rumsfeld spoke of “disgusting deviant behavior” by guards at Abu Ghraib, while praising Guantanamo as an “exceedingly well-run prison.”
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