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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 11:47 GMT
Rumsfeld lashes out at critics
US soldiers escort a prisoner
The US denies it is violating human rights
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has firmly dismissed criticism of the treatment of Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

At a Pentagon briefing, Mr Rumsfeld said all the 158 prisoners were being treated humanely.


Guantanamo Bay's climate is different than Afghanistan. To be in a eight-by-eight cell in beautiful sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not inhumane treatment

Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary
His comments came as US human rights advocates launched a legal challenge against the detention of the prisoners, saying it violated international law and the United States constitution.

UK parliamentarians have also joined international criticism over the prisoners' treatment - spearheaded by human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Red Cross.

Prisoners shackled and kneeling
These images spearheaded international criticism
The criticism grew after it emerged that the prisoners had been handcuffed, blindfolded and shackled; had had their beards shaved; were being forced to live in open-sided wire cells; and, in some cases, were sedated on the flight from Afghanistan.

The US has classed the detainees as "illegal combatants" rather than prisoners of war, denying them rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Humane

Mr Rumsfeld said the captives were being treated humanely and to suggest otherwise was "just plain false".

"What's going on down there is responsible, humane, legal, proper and consistent with the Geneva Convention," he said.


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur in Washington
"The Americans are adamant the treatment is humane"
Ramsay Clark, Former US Attorney General
"You can't just hold people... under conditions that are apparently coercive"
See also:

22 Jan 02 | Americas
Judge's 'doubts' over Cuba prisoners
22 Jan 02 | Americas
Geneva Convention to cover Taleban
22 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK would oppose death penalty
21 Jan 02 | Americas
US sedates terror suspects
21 Jan 02 | Media reports
US on trial over prisoners in Cuba
20 Jan 02 | Americas
In pictures: Camp X-Ray prisoners
17 Jan 02 | Americas
Life in a Guantanamo cell
28 Dec 01 | Americas
Destination Guantanamo Bay
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