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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 16:26 GMT
US sedates terror suspects
Prisoner at Guantanamo base
There are now almost 150 detainees at the base
Two of the latest Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects to arrive at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were sedated during the flight there, officials at the United States naval base say.

The men, who were among a group of 34 detainees transferred from Afghanistan to the temporary jail on Sunday, had to be drugged after they began shouting and thrashing about in their aircraft seats, a military spokesman said.

[Treatment] is humane and appropriate and consistent with the Geneva Convention for the most part

Donald Rumsfeld
US Defence Secretary
Pictures showing inmates chained and blindfolded have drawn international criticism, prompting the British Government to ask American officials for an explanation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said America's release of the pictures for publication by media around the world might violate the Geneva Convention, which forbids exposing captives "to public curiosity".

The prisoners who arrived on Sunday wore shackles and blacked-out goggles as they were led off the aircraft.

About a third of them were said to have sustained gunshot wounds in Afghanistan.

The chief medical officer of the human rights group Amnesty International, Jim West, said the photographs were reminiscent of torture methods used in eastern Europe in the 1970s.

US soldiers at Guantanamo base
US soldiers demonstrate how prisoners are restrained

But the US military stressed that the photographs showed prisoners who had just landed at the base and the pictures were not representative of daily life at the camp.

The detainees are only shackled when they are taken to shower or for medical checks, the military said.

And the three British al-Qaeda/Taleban suspects being held at Camp X-Ray in Cuba have "no complaints" about their treatment, according to British officials who have seen them.


Spokesman Marine Major Stephen Cox defended the use of drugs to sedate the detainees.

  • 80 prisoners detained in cages like these
  • Buckets for toilets
  • Thin foam mattresses
  • Beards shaved

    Detailed plan of cells and conditions

  • "I don't think that I would characterise that as torture. I would characterise that as an appropriate security measure," he said.

    Human rights groups expressed concern about another prisoner who was sedated last week, but US officials said that this was done for medical reasons.

    According to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the prisoners are being treated decently.

    "Obviously, anyone would be concerned if people were suggesting that treatment were not proper," Mr Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington.

    "There is no doubt in my mind that it is humane and appropriate and consistent with the Geneva Convention for the most part."

    Red Cross investigation

    In total, 144 prisoners are now being held in the temporary cells at the base.

    Military officials say the cells soon could hold 320 inmates, a figure which could rise still further if detainees are housed two to a cell.

    The US has plans to build a permanent camp which would hold 1,000 prisoners.

    Fence at Camp X-Ray
    There is talk of expanding the camp to accommodate 1,000 prisoners
    There are still 232 detainees being held by the US in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

    Representatives of the ICRC are currently interviewing detainees at the base amid international concern over their treatment.

    The US says the ICRC has been given full access to the prisoners and is being allowed to interview them privately and on a voluntary basis.

    The commandant at the camp, Brigadier General Mike Lehnert, said the ICRC team had already made a number of private recommendations and these would be accommodated where possible.

    The prisoners were issued with goggles and ear muffs when they boarded the planes to Guantanamo. The US said the goggles were a security precaution and the muffs blocked out the sound of the transport planes in which they were travelling.

    Washington has refused to give the detainees prisoner-of-war status, preferring to call them unlawful combatants.

    The BBC's Richard Lister
    "The US is undeterred by the international criticism"
    The BBC's Susannah Price
    "Human rights groups have accused the government of being weak"
    Colonel Terry Kariko
    "We're treating them humanely, firmly and fair"
    See also:

    21 Jan 02 | UK Politics
    Cuba Britons content with treatment
    20 Jan 02 | Americas
    In pictures: Camp X-Ray prisoners
    18 Jan 02 | Americas
    Red Cross inspects US prison
    18 Jan 02 | Americas
    US public unmoved by camp conditions
    28 Dec 01 | Americas
    Destination Guantanamo Bay
    17 Jan 02 | Americas
    Life in a Guantanamo cell
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