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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 12:58 GMT
Row deepens over prisoners' treatment
US guard patrols the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay
The prisoners are being held as "unlawful combatants"
There is growing controversy surrounding the treatment of al-Qaeda and Taleban prisoners at a US naval base in Cuba.

Human rights groups have continued to complain about the conditions at the Camp X-Ray detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, where 50 detainees are being held amid tight security.


These people... are accused of having been members of the most dangerous terrorist organisation which the world has ever seen

Jack Straw, UK Foreign Secretary
The United States has said the men, who were flown shackled and blindfolded to the base from Afghanistan, are being treated humanely.

The British Government has said the detainees - including three Britons - were being treated appropriately but aaded that it would complain to the US if conditions became unsatisfactory.

Human rights organisations say the prisoners are in a legal limbo because the Americans do not regard them as prisoners of war but as unlawful combatants, to whom the Geneva Convention does not apply.

They were reported to have been manacled for the 24-hour flight from Afghanistan, before being locked up in outdoor wire-fence cells.

Britain concerned

Britain - America's main ally in the war in Afghanistan - has been keen not to criticise the US on the prisoner issue.

Cuba map

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC radio the detainees faced tough measures because of the danger they posed.

"Many of these people's associates are assumed to have been those who have gone in for suicide bombings and for acting as suicides on aeroplanes," he told BBC radio.

He said Britain would ensure the three British captives were treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

The Foreign Office in London said it was still trying to find out the identities of the men and that they would be visited by British diplomats as soon as possible.

None of the prisoners being held at the base has yet been charged but some could face trial in one of the military courts authorised by President George W Bush following the 11 September terror attacks on America.

Britain says it will object if its nationals are sentenced to death if convicted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"If we regard the conditions as unsatisfactory we will say so"
The BBC's Jon Leyne
"Most Americans do not seem too concerned about their human rights"
Dr John Hulsman, Heritage Foundation
"They are being kept in an entirely reasonable manner"
 VOTE RESULTS
Are the Afghan prisoners being treated fairly?

Yes
 61.11% 

No
 38.88% 

32204 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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See also:

15 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Straw's concerns for Cuba captives
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Harsh conditions for Afghan prisoners
04 Jan 02 | Americas
Castro 'does not oppose' US prison
28 Dec 01 | Americas
Destination Guantanamo Bay
14 Jan 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Inside an al-Qaeda camp
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