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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 13:03 GMT
Afghan prisoners: How should they be treated?
The White House has said the Geneva Convention applies to Taleban but not to al-Qaeda detainees being held at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, however, that neither group would qualify as prisoners-of-war because they had not carried arms openly or been part of a recognisable military hierarchy.

Despite the administration's decision on designation, he said, there will be no difference in how the two groups of prisoners are treated.

Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners-of-war are entitled to remain silent under interrogation, giving only their names, ranks and serial numbers.

Do you agree or disagree with the designation given to the prisoners? What do you think of the treatment they are receiving? Will they get a fair trial?


This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The United States must still set an example by treating these prisoners humanely

Marty Koven, Canada

While the crimes that these detainees have committed are ghastly in scope, the United States must still set an example by treating these prisoners humanely, Geneva Convention or not. Anything less than that would be pure hypocrisy.
Marty Koven, Canada

The terrorists who are our prisoners in Cuba are treated very well - much better than they should be. These people are the dregs of the earth! Do you know how our people were treated during the Vietnam war? Why wasn't there the uproar then?
Margaret Roth, USA


The time of moral relativism has past.

Jeff, USA
You all must realize that no one really cares what you think about this issue. The individuals currently in custody in Cuba deserve everything they are getting. It is time for many people in the world, especially Europeans, to learn another lesson in international politics. Once again the United States of America is left the task of resolving another major world problem. Why does this happen???? Well, it is because many many people believe that their idealistic visions of the world already exist. Wake up! There are many people in the world who would have no problem slitting your throat because you do not believe what they believe, because you do not speak the same language they speak, because you do not worship the same God they do.

The time has come and the US is left with few options to deal with these despicable individuals. If we have to protect ourselves we will protect ourselves so that, to quote Abraham Lincoln, government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth. The time of moral relativism has past. If an individual, or if a group, decides to attack and murder unarmed civilians to advance their political or religious goals they should be eliminated. If they surrender after doing a dastardly act, they should be imprisoned as their crime demands. And this will be done by our standards.
Jeff, USA

The Geneva Convention must be applicable to every individual of every nation by those who proclaim to uphold it and uphold human rights. Any other form of behaviour is an act of terrorism - which Bush & Co claim to be opposed to. It's about time the U.S. stopped arming other nations and then finding an excuse for blowing them to pieces. So the Trade Centre crumbled to the ground? Maybe now you'll take a close look at your corrupt foreign policy and realise why you are so despised by poorer nations than yourselves.
George R.M. Moretti, U.K.

I would tend to agree that the Taleban were in fact members of a somewhat legitimate military, fighting under a clearly recognizable structure of command, under a recognizable national government, against an incursion of foreign military troops. In that sense it is possible to offer the Taleban POW status, which cannot be accorded to the Al Qaeda. However, that according of status could mean that the Taleban will have to be tried for war crimes rather than dealt with in other ways.
Robert Morpheal, Canada


The WTC was NOT a legitimate military target by any stretch of the imagination

Peter D, UK
The reason that the prisoners are not classed as POW's is that they would then not be required to answer questions with more than their name, rank and number. Given their self declared goals and tactics, I think the West has a valid reason to want more information than that. Please bear in mind that the WTC was NOT a legitimate military target by any stretch of the imagination and neither the people inside or those on the aircraft hijacked or even the many members of the rescue services that lost their lives were combatants, without intelligence, ANY of us could be next.
Peter D, UK

I must admit I'm amazed by some of the comments from US citizens on this page. I understand that this was a terrible thing to happen in your country, and my heart goes out to everyone who suffered. However, you are not the only country to have suffered from terrorist attacks. I lost a very dear friend of mine in an IRA attack only a couple of years ago, in the UK. Sadly, I'm just one of many thousands of British people who have had loved ones killed and maimed in terrorist attacks over the past couple of decades. But what we DIDN'T do is ride roughshod over the Irish people (the majority of whom are peaceable people, much like those in Afghanistan). We applied justice to these terrorists, offering them legal rights and support, and gave them a fair trial. Some were found not guilty and released. Others were convicted. Although my heart says I want every murdering IRA terrorist to die slowly and horribly, my conscience says that justice must take precedence. The Al-Qaeda soldiers have confused justice with murder - now's the time for US citizens to show their moral superiority over the Taliban.
David T, UK

Forgive me for thinking that giving these prisoners rights under the Geneva Convention is nothing more than a PR move. I don't believe that the US was seriously contemplating torturing these prisoners for information. Even the Bush administration has limits. Their daily conditions aren't going to change. They aren't going to get proper legal representation and, they are going to be recognised as POWs. What is changing? Nothing. The only reason, from America's point of view, why they should treat these prisoners more fairly is so that they can be seen to be the civilised nation they profess to be. For this reason, I find it staggering that some people still cannot understand the importance that these prisoners are not treated better. This is world politics not school yard scrapping.
Dougal Wise, London, UK

The Taliban and al-Queda are being feed, sheltered, allowed religious expression, better hygiene practices than before capture, I fail to see how that is inhumane. They are combatants, who were fighting to kill Americans. Their cause succeeded in exterminating 3000 innocent lives, not to mention those still to come in this battle. We shackle the murderers in our own prison system, not to mention other ways of maintaining control. Logic would insist that extreme precautionary measures are being implemented, for these combatants have made it clear that they will kill ANYONE who impedes their goal.
Andrea, Kentucky, USA


The al-Qaeda members should be given a fair trial under US civilian law

Alex, New York City, USA
I think that the al-Qaeda fighters in Guantanamo Bay are a great cause for concern. They are not prisoners of war because they do not belong to any army. However, they were fighting US soldiers in Afghanistan and were captured by the marines. I think that new legislature needs to be created for these prisoners and that should apply to all terrorist groups whose members are captured by the armed forces. The al-Qaeda members should be given a fair trial under US civilian law. They are not an army and therefore should not be given a military tribunal.
Alex, New York City, USA

I don't think that if al-Qaeda troops had captured any US soldiers, they would be too worried about the Geneva Convention. These people should be treated as the international criminals and murderers that they are.
James, Australia

These people are being treated humanely by any credible standard. The images that have been so politicised by the Europeans represent the proper security precautions that any well-trained military police unit takes in any respectable army.
Matthew Olson, USA

The simple fact is that justice must be done, and must be seen to be done to the most stringent legal standards. Otherwise America loses its tenuous hold on the role of the world's policeman, and instead must accept the baser title of vigilante.
Richard Johnson, Australia


Treat the prisoners as POWs

Rik van Riel, Brazil
If the US is fighting the "war against terrorism" under the flag of freedom and democracy, surely they should practice what they preach? I'd say treat the prisoners as POWs.
Rik van Riel, Brazil

I have a simple question. Does anyone remember the horrifying images of those poor souls that opted to jump to their death from the WTC instead of burn to death? Well, with that image fresh in your mind ask yourselves if these detainees are being treated humanly?
Eric, USA

America, rightly or wrongly, will set the standard by which other countries will observe. By lowering the standards America places its own special forces in grave danger. The moral high ground belongs to America and the democratic west. We should be careful not to surrender it too easily.
G. McEvoy, Leeds, UK


Just because terrorists don't sign conventions does not mean that we can treat them as subhuman

Wyn, Spain
Does the Geneva Convention only apply to those who signed it? Surely a convention to protect human rights must apply to each and every human. Just because terrorists don't sign conventions does not mean that we can treat them as subhuman.
Wyn, Spain

I'm sure I vaguely remember Tony Blair and George Bush calling the aftermath of 11 September a war, doesn't that mean we have to abide by the Geneva convention? Or is this another case of Britain and the US making up the rules as they go along. Surely the arrogant idea that we are above international law is only going to feed the dissatisfaction, which terrorism feeds on.
Lisa, England


Al-Qaeda members should be treated the same as those involved in the Lockerbie bombing

Michelle, West Virginia, USA
I believe that a distinction needs to be made between al-Qaeda and the Taleban. The Taleban is composed of some outsiders, but many Afghans. Al-Qaeda is comprised of Arabs using Afghanistan as a terrorist training ground. That said, all prisoners need to be treated fairly and equitably, but al-Qaeda members, unlike the Taleban, were not part of an army or official military. They are part of an independent terrorist organisation and as such should be treated the same as those involved in the Lockerbie bombing or any other terrorist act - as criminals, not as prisoners of war.
Michelle, West Virginia, USA

Here's a thought, anyone that believes that these prisoners are not being treated humanely should demand to sit in the cell with them to show these poor detainees that they care about them. Any takers?
Dan, Pennsylvania, USA

The bleeding-heart liberals hysterically protesting the US treatment of terrorist prisoners have obviously emerged from three months of therapy forgetting what this is about: these people are trying to kill us. You, me, Americans, Britons, Afghans, in fact, everyone who dares disagree with them. Once you realise that their treatment at the hands of the US forces seems benign indeed.
Alex, Netherlands

I applaud the current situation, however this shouldn't be mistaken for a complete approval of the captives' treatment. It is, I think, of little consequence that the terrorists weren't "in uniform". Prisoner of war status should be given to all the captives. Anyone would think the Geneva Convention unconditionally stated to set the captives free from the fuss the Americans are making.
Peter Bolton, UK/US

The captives are POWs, plain and simple, regardless of what Bush says.
Henry, USA

How soon we forget that these are the same group of people that just killed 3,000 innocent Americans. They mistreated their own women and children in their country. These men are getting way better than they deserve. Half of the world's population don't have it as good as they have it. Ask the next homeless person you see when the last time he had three square meals a day was.
Sheilla Ingram, USA


The American killed during the Afghan prison uprising was kicked and bitten numerous times

Erika Guillot, USA
First of all, headlines and pictures do not tell you the whole story. The prisoners are not being tortured or having sensory deprivation. During transportation they are hooded. Why? Because they have bitten soldiers and tried to bite others. They state that if they do not have weapons, they will use what is at their disposal. The American killed during the Afghan prison uprising was kicked and bitten numerous times. Probably not a very pleasant way to go. Imagine the images his family must live with. The hoods are taken off when they reach their destination. By all means, if you Brits want to transport these prisoners with no hoods and one should get a UK soldier by the neck, then you explain to his family why their loss was necessary so as to be humane to that poor Taleban soldier.
Erika Guillot, USA

They have a roof over their head, three meals a day as well as health-care. More than millions of Americans at this very minute. More than the people of underdeveloped countries who are good, law-abiding people.
L. Baglino, USA

Prisoners have long suffered in American prisons, international or otherwise. It should be apparent to all that habitually, Americans are willing to throw away what they see as unfit. This includes people. It is because of this unremitting logic that these prisoners need international attention and protection.
Ali, California, USA

I trust our that our American friends realise that the vast majority of the British people fully support the US in its quest and approach to ridding the world of terrorists. The howls of disapproval from the Left in Europe should be ignored as they are wrong once again.
Roy Thomson, England


We cannot defend democracy and our way of life by subverting them in hard cases.

Maurice Price, UK
I have been horrified by two elements in people's comments. One is that Taleban and al-Qaeda have become one and the same. The other is the assumption of their guilt of terrorist offences. Surely their guilt or otherwise is what needs to be established...not to some rough and ready standard but the highest standards of democracy. After all that is what we are told is being defended. We cannot defend democracy and our way of life by subverting them in hard cases. Subjecting these prisoners to the proper judicial processes is as much a part of the fight against terrorism as any military action to dismantle their bases. The sensory deprivation and sidestepping of the law (military tribunals) remove our right to be seen as being moral and democratic.
Maurice Price, UK

The prisoners are still vowing to kill Americans! They are being treated like very dangerous criminals because they ARE dangerous criminals. I had lower living standards than the prisoners when I was in the Peace Corps. You people are ridiculous - behaving as if the US is some horrible human rights abusing country. Some more travel and reading about the world might put things in perspective for you. There are people who say we should not even detain these people because it will make Muslim extremists angry. That is an idiotic reason to not defend ourselves. Your criticism of America's treatment of the detainees will have no effect. We have been saturated with petty criticism from Europe for decades. Why should we care what you think? You clearly don't understand this situation.
Franco, Virginia, USA

Whilst I am not anti-American and whilst I fully support any action against terrorism, I find it impossible to align this with the present situation in Cuba. America's cavalier disregard for either international law or public opinion is incredible given their posturing as "the worlds policemen" and "Leaders of the western world". I find the supporters pathetic scrabbling through world history from WW2 to Northern Ireland in the 70's to find excuses for the way they are treating these prisoners disgusting - this is the year 2002 not 1940 or 1970! And, by the way, the British admitted their wrongs against the Irish prisoners, and ceased such abuses, a long time ago. And please, don't try to use your terrible losses to terrorism as an excuse - I grew up with the threat of terrorist bombs on my doorstep put there by organisations part funded by so called loyal Irish Americans

Human rights are universal. America is a signatory to both the UN & Geneva Conventions - a fact it seems to have conveniently forgotten. Sensory deprivation, no matter how short term, is extremely damaging. Keeping prisoners in chicken wire cages, forcefully shaving their heads and beards in defiance of their religious beliefs, and parading them for the press is abuse. The refusal to either charge these men or give them access to legal aid further adds to this. The only reasoning I can think of for the present situation is that there is scant hard evidence against many of the detainees, and that under international judicial proceedings this would become apparent.

Human rights abuses occur no matter who is the perpetrator and who is the victim. To America I say this: "J'Accuse!!!"
DaveyB, London, UK

Most of the Western people support their governments 100% in their torture of these Muslim prisoners and the humiliation of their religion by shaving their beards. One only has to read the newspaper letters, discussion boards and other comments posted by non-Muslim Westerners to realise that the vast majority of them support this torture and that the ones who are against it, like human rights campaigners etc. are only a minority. The hypocrites in the World condemned the Taliban for their human rights' abuses and their treatment of prisoners. However, we may ask: "Is there one single incident of the Taliban treating their prisoners, whether Muslim, non- Muslim, Northern Alliance, Western, in this manner, depriving them of the ability to speak, hear, smell, move, etc. throughout the seven years that they were in power?" The British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, herself said that she was treated very well by the Taliban whilst held captive by them. She herself said that she was allowed five meals a day, a room (not cell) to herself, fresh clothes and she was even given cigarettes. This was whilst she was put on trial, after which she was released and allowed to return to Pakistan. Where is this treatment for the prisoners in Cuba then? What happened to the famous slogan "innocent until proven guilty"?
Mohsin Abbas, Islamabad, Pakistan

There is no excuse for terrorism anywhere; no exceptions. I hope they are all arrested and put away for life. Americans come down hard on our own "home-grown" terrorists; much harder than in the UK (including the death penalty). I am truly baffled by the perception that Americans or "Irish Americans" sympathize with Irish terrorists. We may not understand them (no more than we "understood" Timothy McVeigh) but we don't excuse mass-murderers nor do we apologize for having imposed the death penalty for the carnage McVeigh caused in Oklahoma City. The "American Taleban Boy" may well wish he had a military trial and a cell in Cuba rather than face an American jury or his cellmates in an American Maximum Security Prison. This is not exactly a lightweight, "apologetic" response to terrorists. Perhaps someone can explain what perpetuates the myth that Americans sympathize with IRA terrorists.
Milligan, California, USA

In response to the first set of comments, I am an American citizen and I strongly believe that the United States has an obligation to abide by international law. I am frustrated that our government feels that we can flaunt international law (i.e., the Geneva Convention) whenever we feel like it. International law helps the world become more civilized - it allows for uniform prosecution of human rights violations and creates a more stable world. How can we claim to stand for justice, democracy, and human rights if we fail practice what we preach?
Mark,Chicago, USA

I will use the words of the honourable Tony Blair; these men are "murderous and suicidal." Please remember that these men have no reservations with the taking of life or sacrificing their own lives to fulfil their murderous ends. They've demonstrated that time and time again all over the world. Also, these are not Afghanis that were defending their country from invaders; they're Arabs, Pakistanis and Chechens. These are men that went to Afghanistan as students of terror and destruction. And the graduates of these schools do not have our best interests at heart. So the million dollar question is "How do you contain a man that is willing to sacrifice his life to take yours?" Answer that question and you will have solved this situation.
Eric, Oakland, CA, USA


They should be leading by example

Nigel Greensitt, Manchester, UK
I am not anti American (my wife is American )- I am anti illegal detention of these prisoner. After what happened in September the US should be showing the world that it is a civilised country and as such should treat these people in a civilised manner. It should be of no consequence what crimes they have or have not committed, nor how other countries ignore international law. As the only superpower (until Europe gets its act together) they should be leading by example. Unfortunately the US is now paying the price for electing a weak intellectual lightweight with a less than agreeable human rights history. Mr Bush is being shoved around by the military powers he is supposedly in charge of.
Nigel Greensitt, Manchester, UK

It's great to see so many people (apart from the lady from USA) firmly coming out and condemning terrorism. I lived in NI for the first 26 years of my life and am utterly disgusted that people can be so entrenched in their prejudices that they think it's ok to kill anyone - whether they're an innocent civilian or an innocent security forces member. And it disgusts me to see people who admit to having been members in terror organisations being allowed to enter mainstream politics and get paid a whopping salary for the privilege. Life should mean just that. If someone is convicted of a terrorist crime they should be imprisoned for the rest of their natural life - just as the families left behind are left to suffer for the rest of their lives.
Karen, England

The fact that sensory deprivation is being used on those prisoners being taken from Afghanistan to Cuba is already a cause for grave concern. Inhumane treatment is inhumane treatment. I hope the Red Cross will be free to publish a report on the exact conditions under which these prisoners are being held. If no independent information is forthcoming then there is yet more cause for concern. Is it so dangerous to allow the civilised world to know exactly what is going on in Cuba? The US appears to be playing with the codes of international law and this can only weaken their own position in the long term. I understand perfectly that these prisoners should be dealt with with the utmost caution but American apprehension seems to be exceeding all limits. Free access by a team of UN inspectors would be another way to relieve the web of intrigue that is escalating by the minute.
Walter Best, Portugal


Our only obligation is to treat them humanely, which we have done

Keith Schnell, USA
These people are being held first and foremost because they were engaged in fighting American or Northern Alliance soldiers in Afghanistan. That is reason enough to hold them until it can be determined weather or not specific charges are to be levelled against them. As they were never part of any national army they are not necessarily POWs, and our only obligation is to treat them humanely, which we have done.
Keith Schnell, USA

I am all for the US withdrawing from the world and don't care a bit whether we are welcome in other countries. It would be interesting to watch the ultra left governments of Europe build their own "terrorist tolerant" societies. I certainly would welcome Americans to return home, from everywhere, particularly Europe and the Middle East, to concentrate on our own problems. You Europeans seem too have all the answers anyway, as the ultra-left always does. In short, we will mete out justice on our terms and you can do so on yours, just get off our backs.
Arthur Roy, San Francisco, USA

To all outraged Americans out there - please do not judge us all for soft liberals. I have no doubt if the events of September 11 had happened in London those same liberals would change their tune. These are mostly the same people who would bring back hanging if someone close to them were hurt but would oppose such measures if it happened to someone else. As for the Taleban prisoners, they have their health and their lives, if not their freedom.

What they planned to do to any who opposed them should be set against these facts - they are far better treated by the US than the treatment they would mete out to others. Give them the choice of being squeezed under a rock while being relentlessly carpet bombed or being where they are now and I doubt if many would refuse the latter. Let us consider the case for offering them some extra comforts. How about a television?

They could watch all those decadent western programmes. Maybe we should throw in a music centre and some raunchy Madonna CDs. For us these would be comforts, for them a kind of torture, so the US has chosen not to give these to them. As for privacy and extra items for their cells, remember these are desperate people who must be watched and controlled to prevent them from causing harm to themselves or others. It's for their own good they are not given them.
Phill, London, UK

I cannot believe what I am reading. The nerve of all you, treating Americans as if we were your enemies. I wonder what type of treatment the British government would have provided to these barbarians if the terrorists crashed the planes in London. The Taleban did have a chance to turn over Osama bin Laden and they refused. They harboured and financed these terrorists who were roaming around the world plotting to kill innocent civilians regardless of their nationality. They massacred their own people, held public executions, oppressed, beat and killed woman and left them to beg for food for their children - regardless of the fact that their children were dying of starvation.

Those are the true barbarians, the barbarians that allowed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to train in their country. Now, if my history is correct, America helped save Europe in World War Two, and they have always been there for the UK, France, Germany and any other European country that needs our assistance in a time of crisis. But now it seems like the whole world is happy that our people have to worry about being massacred in any part of the world just because of who we are.
John Gonzalez, Lancaster, Pennsylvania


They are violent, dangerous, and potentially suicidal people who have been brainwashed into hating even life itself.

Daniel Twombly, USA
The Taliban prisoners are being treated as well as anyone can expect them to be. They are violent, dangerous, and potentially suicidal people who have been brainwashed into hating even life itself. To treat them any differently then they have been would be irresponsible. Any more coddled then they are and what would be the point of holding them as prisoners, they would be living in Club Med? Any worse and the US would be setting a bad precedent. The way they are treated is more then humane considering what they are suspected of doing. Normal criminals off the street would be treated little better in the US, and that is the way it should be. Yes they are innocent until proven guilty, but they were in a position to be suspected of being guilty and that alone gives the US the right, duty and responsibility to treat them as a possible danger to the world. Just because countries in Europe have become to liberalized doesn't give them any right to complain about how we respond to our enemy. And if the world wants to back out of the fight on terror, fine, we'll just do it ourselves.
Daniel Twombly, San Jose, California, USA

These howls of outrage over the treatment of the al-Qaeda detainees being held in Cuba is political correctness run amok. The detainees are not prisoners of war - they are terrorists. They were not fighting for or defending their country. They are not going to return to their country when the fighting is over and take up peaceful lives. They are dedicated to committing acts of mass destruction designed to achieve the maximum amount of chaos in the world. While their living conditions in Cuba may be spartan, you may be sure that they will receive better treatment from the US than from other Middle Eastern countries. The US will not behead them or stone them to death and they will certainly not have their limbs chopped off. I do not think that anti-American rhetoric serves any useful purpose. Rather, the discussion should focus on how the international community can find common ground to deal with these terrorists in the future.
Joan Cameron, Toronto, Canada


Saying how lucky the prisoners are to be in warm Cuba shows a total lack of comprehension.

Jean Martin, Canada
Reading through the comments, many of them from the U.S.A., demonstrates that this country simply does not get it. No understanding of the historical context or the horrors of taking people from their native culture is shown in many posts. Saying how lucky the prisoners are to be in warm Cuba receiving three meals a day again shows a total lack of comprehension. The fact that they are not charged with anything and their uncertain status is totally ignored. That is sadly why we are doomed for more of the same. In the course of history, when things go against the US, as they inevitably will, as all empires pass, who will be there to plead their case?
Jean Martin, Lantzville BC Canada

They are being treated differently from John Walker Lindt . I fail to see how being an American Citizen is a relevant difference - to my mind it makes him worse if anything, so the treatment of these prisoners cannot be "fair"
Bruce Rae, Wellington

The US can always demonstrate to the world that the prisoners are being humanely treated by installing Web Cams so that all can see that justice is being done. If they won't then we can assume that the prisoners are not being treated properly.
Christopher Sawtell, Christchurch, N.Z.

I can't believe all of the cynical comments in the press regarding the treatment of these prisoners. I have every confidence that the US will treat these prisoners humanely and by western standards. As far as I can tell from the information provided thus far, these prisoners are being treated in a similar manner to high risk prisoners in a maximum security prison on the US mainland. Except on the mainland they don't have air conditioned cells with panoramic views. This attack on our American allies is nothing more than an attempt by whining left wing liberals to undermine the progress that has been made so far in the war against terrorism. And for those people who think our soldiers would be treated any better if held prisoner in an Islamic country read Andy McNab's book, Bravo Two Zero.
Stephen Blackburn, Cambridge, England

Firstly, unless it can be proven that the prisoners were directly involved in attacks or crimes on US soil, the US has no business applying its "justice" to them. If there are charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity, the prisoners should be tried by an International Court. If the crimes were perpetrated in Afghanistan against Afghanistanis they should be tried by Afghan courts. Also since apparently the US is not officially at war, US soldiers are evidently also "illegal combatants". (What would happen if US soldiers should stray into Iran?) This is also preposterous since the Taleban was the government of Afghanistan, even receiving aid from the US. It is a shame that other Western leaders do not have the courage to stand up to the US government and say that the treatment of these prisoners is not acceptable in this century. Yes, if they are found guilty of crimes they should be punished. But prominent Nazis were given fair and public trials and Israel gave Eichmann a fair trial. What the US policy has already done is to raise international sympathy for these men, some of whom are undoubtedly bloodthirsty killers. Public and proper trials would show the world without a doubt what they are.
Charles, Amsterdam, Netherlands

So many of you just jump to conclusions regarding the treatment of these 'detainees'. First of all, the International Red Cross is there to oversee the treatment of the 'detainees'. Second, the US is detaining these individuals while intelligence is gathered for the trials (and yes, they do deserve a fair trial no matter how guilty they may appear). Instead of just screaming 'bloody murder' like every other liberal, have a little patience and justice will prevail.
RK, Chicago, USA


One would think we are chaining them naked to a spike in the middle of the desert and feeding them mouldy bread and dirty water!

Doug, New York
I can¿t believe what I am reading. One would think we are chaining them naked to a spike in the middle of the desert and feeding them mouldy bread and dirty water. These people are accused of being behind the murder of thousands of innocent people and yet the USA is providing them with three meals a day, medical care far superior than what they were receiving in Afghanistan, a place to sleep with a roof over their head, religious materials, exercise and clothing. While they deserve basic necessities, they don¿t deserve satellite TV and Massages every hour. My opinion is anyone making these comments probably did not support taking the fight to these terrorists to begin with, otherwise how could one say it is ok to bomb the hell out of these people and kill them, yet once caught that they should be treated with such tenderness. Thankfully for the Afghan people and any innocent people who may have been killed in terrorist attacks thwarted by intelligence collected in Afghanistan the mainly silent majority ignored them then, as we should now.
Doug, NYC, USA

Once again the America-haters are coming out of the woodwork to sound off against the "evil" USA. For those who are serious, thoughtful and who try to retain some degree of objectivity, I'd offer the following observations: (1) no military tribunals have been created to try anyone; they have simply been approved as a possible option; (2) these al-Qaeda prisoners are considered the most dangerous of the whole bunch; they have repeatedly threatened violence; and while in the custody of the Afghans, many were in fact involved in prison uprisings; and (3) perhaps most importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that they are being treated inhumanely or that they will not receive fair trials.

These people are being well fed. They have mattresses to sleep on. They have 3 meals a day. There's even a sign out for them pointing to the direction of Mecca so they can properly exercise their religion! They are not being physically abused. They are being treated with very tight security-- as one would hope and expect.
Patrick, New York, USA

These people are being treated as well as they can safely be treated. Our armed forces must consider their own safety alongside of the comfort of the prisoners, and facilities are being erected as quickly as possible to accommodate both. As to whether they are POWs, this is an undeclared war only because there is no state to declare war against, and therefore no homeland to rightfully return its POWs to when the war ends. It has not ended yet, so they are not due to be returned yet in any case, since they would immediately become combatants again. The Geneva Convention does not apply. Not because it is not convenient to the USA, but simply because it is not relevant to this type of conflict; the proper precedent does not yet exist for a war against people without a state or geographic location. If this were addressed I have little doubt that these people could be called POWs, but if you first name them POWs then the question is, where is the war? And they must then be released. That is idiotic, since they pose a clear and present danger to the United States. Adjust the Convention to meet the times, then you can chastise us if we don't comply.
Jon, USA


Is this the standard the USA wants to set for its citizens who are detained overseas?

Alan Gibson, Ireland
You should treat others not as they treat you but as you would like to be treated. Is this the standard the USA wants to set for its citizens who are detained overseas - not given a trial or representation and subject to sensory deprivation torture? They are setting a dangerous precedent which will come back to haunt the world. What if even one of these men is innocent - how will anyone ever find out. Most are probably being held on the testimony of former Taleban colleagues who are now in government because their warlord changed sides first. The USA made a mistake when the CIA trained Bin Laden and they are making another one now.
Alan Gibson, Dublin, Ireland

The fact that they're still alive speaks for itself.
Claire, USA


There are not many remote, high security bases in which the U.S. could house hundreds of prisoners in any better conditions.

Ryan, USA
I certainly understand the concerns raised by numerous people and groups. But what is often ignored is that this is a temporary set-up to be used until the ultimate fate of these men is to be decided. Quite frankly, there are not many remote, high security bases in which the U.S. could house hundreds of prisoners in any better conditions. Still, I suppose that as an ignorant and brutish Texan I just don't see anything inhumane with three meals a day, three showers, recreation time, mail, medical attention and a roof over their heads. Perhaps we should just send the next group to London to await their fate at Claridge's.
Ryan, Houston, USA

The US is calling the prisoners "detainees" for a good reason. If they were Prisoners of war then they would no longer be able to be tried for war crimes. The prisoners are not only being treated in accordance with the Geneva convention, but they are being treated much better than they deserve. When asked, the British detainees said they had no complaints about their treatment. The US will treat these men fairly and the British detainees will most likely find themselves in Britain before its all over, so please give it a rest.
Thomas, San Antonio, USA

Now let me get this straight. These members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda hate everyone and everything to do with Western culture. This includes not just the US but also the UK and the rest of western Europe. They have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people all over the world, and have carried out their macabre actions with great excitement and joy. And there are those who are worried about their "human rights"? Well, I suppose so if you consider these people human. I think they're monsters. Hideous monsters, and they can all rot in hell.
Bob Hight, Raleigh, NC USA


It is difficult to see how replacing their wire mesh "cages" with the conventional steel bars of the jail cell would make their condition any more, or any less, humane.

Kevin Rardin, Tennessee
As a prosecutor in the civilian criminal courts and a reserve military lawyer, I think much of discussion arises from the difficulty democratic governments have in deciding whether to apply criminal law and procedure, the law of armed conflict, or some combination of the two, to actions against terrorists. Each approach has strengths and weaknesses, and the entire subject is one about which reasonable men and women might disagree. I am reminded of the police primacy vs. military primacy discussion in Northern Ireland not so long ago. Still, whether the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, are characterized as illegal combatants, prisoners of war, or criminal suspects, I would expect my government to uphold the fundamental principles behind the Geneva Conventions by clothing the prisoners, feeding them, housing them, allowing them practice their faith, giving them the opportunity to inform relatives of their whereabouts, and allowing the ICRC to visit them. These things are being done, and the prisoners are being treated humanely. It is difficult to see how replacing their wire mesh "cages" with the conventional steel bars of the jail cell would make their condition any more, or any less ,humane.
Kevin Rardin, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

It must be one of the indicators of a civilized society how it treats those who have sinned against it. Their crimes do not dictate their treatment in custody 'though they may affect their treatment if convicted. More than anything else, we need calm at this time. The U.S. should hand them over to a neutral party for trial.
Derek Blyth, UK

It would be extremely inappropriate to call the al-Qaeda members prisoners of war. We don't call real IRA members, or Basque separatists, prisoners of war. There is good reason for this. Terrorists do not deserve the status of prisoner of war. They only objective is to murder innocent people. Sociopaths and mad murders should have less rights.
Bill, Milwaukee, WI

How many rows have there been in Europe concerning the treatment of political prisoners in Castro's Cuba? How many headlines has The Mirror printed about Cuba's rat-infested jails?
J. Forbes, Pittsburgh, USA


Thus far the U.S. military is doing everything by the book.

Doug, USA
The prisoners should and are being treated correctly according to the Geneva Conventions. There are some key legal reasons why they should not (yet) be labelled POWs - but that technicality should not impact on their humane treatment. Thus far the U.S. military is doing everything by the book. This is necessary since it is important to show the world how civilized nations behave correctly even after the most outrageous attacks on innocent citizens by these clueless zealots.
Doug, USA

It disgusts me to see what the world has come to post Sept 11th while the people just sit and find it acceptable. What happened on Sept 11, while tragic, does not give the USA the right to call its own shots and do whatever it pleases the world over while flaunting international law. What horrifies me, is that the word seems to agree that this is justifiable revenge... my god, what has become of us???? And if this is the new standard, then let the world beware.
Jenin, Virginia, USA

As one British official recently commented: The definition of a Prisoner of War is a complicated thing. What matters is that they are treated humanely. I don't think anyone can argue that the conditions are not humane. They are not luxurious, but does anyone think that we should reward terrorism with luxury?
Jordan, New Mexico, USA


The US has in the past been much friendlier to its international captives than most other countries

Chris, Chicago
First, I think people are jumping the gun on this issue. No one has said that the prisoners will not receive a fair trial, and being that the US has in the past been much friendlier to its international captives than most other countries (including most of the EU) there is no real basis for the accusation that there will be no fair trial in the US. Personally, I think they should be regarded as prisoners of war. But I don't think the lack of that declaration is a result of the desire of the American government to do something horribly fiendish to these men. I would believe much more readily that it is a result of some political conflict concerning the ordeal in Afghanistan. The government hasn't declared war, so how can they be prisoners of war, etc... But the fact of the matter is that their conditions are better than most prisoners, anywhere. I think we forget that in nearly every war that has ever been fought by any country, the 'rules' concerning the treatment of prisoners has melted away to harsh treatment and worse. So far, nothing has happened to these men other than detainment. Until something does, I think it would be responsible of anyone else to not point fingers about possible outcomes. That is not to say that one shouldn't lobby their own opinions about how the prisoners should be treated. But don't close the book on the way the US treats them until the US has treated them poorly.
Chris, Chicago, Ill

The self-righteous clamour over the detention of these people is difficult to stomach in view of the comparative silence over the appalling treatment of prisoners in other countries. This double standard is the classic bigotry of low expectations, where inhabitants of third-world countries are held to lower standards. The message coming across is that they are too ignorant and primitive to know any better so let's only criticize the United States.
Andrew Crane, Atlanta, USA

How "inhumane" is it to be flown to an island paradise, fed three "culturally correct" meals per day, given free medical care, daily exercise and a copy of the Koran? Wake up, people! Did those who died on Sept. 11th receive humane treatment? As far as I am concerned, the terrorists gave up their rights on that fateful September morning.
Linda, Phoenix, USA

For us, Afghans, the Taleban is just a history now, a dark and horrible page of our history. However, if I were in charge I would put them in a zoo, an international zoo. I don¿t know if I have used the name zoo properly, as it is used for animals. I don¿t want call then "animal", I think it is insult for animals. We have to find a new name for it. I still remember the last time I was in Kabul, I had just arrived and was taking off from the bus, I saw two hands had been cut and were hanged in a tree. When I asked the people, I found they were the hands of a 14 years boy. Let's not think about what he had done, he was 14, he was a child. And there are thousands cases like this.
Aziz, Kosovo

It is hard to think of these people without hate, part of me wants them to be executed like those poor people on Sept 11th and part of me feels they should at least have a trial. And remember it is not only the victims in America these people have inflicted pain against, they have been terrorising these native Afghanistan people for years.
Josh Hawes, Newtown, Wales

See also:

09 Jan 02 | South Asia
US seeks access to Taleban ministers
10 Jan 02 | South Asia
Harsh conditions await prisoners
28 Dec 01 | Americas
Destination Guantanamo Bay
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