Amnesty International's Anti-Guantanamo Display Rouses Controversy

Amnesty International is currently touring the country with a life-sized replica of a maximum security prison cell at Guantánamo Bay. But critics say the cell, which is an attempt to call attention to alleged human rights abuses at the camp, is missing basic amenities provided to prisoners.

The 7x10-foot cell, on display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., lacks amenities like bedding, toiletries and a copy of the Koran, and it has nothing to illustrate that regular meals are served to inmates three times a day.

• Click here to see more photos of protests and real Guantanamo Bay cells.

Amnesty International-USA said the cell, which contains a toilet, sleeping bunk and a small window, is meant to symbolize the U.S. government's alleged mistreatment of detainees at the prison.

It said the tour is designed to increase public awareness and mount pressure on the Bush administration and Congress to close down the U.S.-controlled detention center. The group planned its display in Washington to coincide with a House Judiciary subcommittee's hearing on harsh interrogation techniques.

But Charles "Cully" Stimson, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, lashed out against Amnesty's campaign, calling it a "complete fraud in misrepresenting the condition of detention at Gitmo today."

"They are just perpetuating a tired, old lie," Stimson told He said that Amnesty's description of conditions at the prison differs significantly from other accounts detailing the treatment of detainees over the last six years.

He pointed out that many detainees "enjoy more than 10 hours a day of recreation time at Guantánamo, which is more than any prisoner in any prison in the United States."

"The cells at Gitmo are the same size and the same design as those throughout the United States," he said. "And the Federal Bureau of Prisons has gone to the prison over the years and if we asked them to do it again they would certify those facilities as compliant with the standards for American jails and prisons."

"Amnesty should be ashamed of itself, but they’re not," he said.

But Amnesty-USA's media relations director Sharon Sing told that critics like Stimson are missing the point by focusing on the amenities, which Sing described as "comfort items."

The purpose of the display, Sing said, is to protest "the U.S. government's detention of people without charge or trial for six years."

The tour, which kicked off on May 8th in Miami, has attracted hundreds of supporters as it travelled through cities such as Philadelphia and Portland, Maine.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International supporters and other activists gathered on the National Mall to voice their support for immediate closure of the prison facility.

Several protestors dressed in Guantánamo-style orange jumpsuits and held signs calling for the U.S. government to stop the alleged torture of detainees and shut down the prison. Amnesty said it plans to continue the tour through other cities in the Midwest and West.

Sing said that tour will wrap up when Guantánamo closes.

"We work on human rights around the world and that includes the United States," Sing said.

But Stimson said the human rights group is prompted by ulterior motives.

"Amnesty is doing this simply to raise money," he said, adding that he wished the organization would focus its resources instead on "actual human rights abuses that are occurring around the world."