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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 09:51 GMT
X-Ray inmates: What should happen now?
The US authorities have agreed to ease conditions for the Taleban and al-Qaeda prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay after two-thirds of them went on hunger strike.

The detainees say that the hunger-strike began when one of them was forcibly stripped of a turban he had made out of a sheet and was wearing during prayers.

Now the Camp Commander has told the prisoners they will be able to wear turbans, although they will be searched often.

Meanwhile, the fate of the detainees remains unclear after Washington officials admitted that few, if any, of them are likely to be brought to trial before a military tribunal.

Was the US right to relax conditions at Camp x-ray? What do you think should happen to the detainees now?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

If the detainees are not to be tried it can only be because there is no evidence against them. Without evidence they should be released. It seem the Americans have gone in like a bull in a china shop, grabbed whoever they could and got out again, missing the main target in the process. They should be returned to Afghanistan.

I think some of the language used on this board, by Americans in particular, highlights a problem. People are referring to the detainees as terrorists with no evidence to support this. The only thing we know for certain about them is that they were on the losing side in Afghanistan. If the US had lost would it be right to lock up any US soldier or militiaman without charge?
George, UK

The hunger strike is an example of how the prisoners are becoming a real liability for the U.S. Whatever we do, it must be done legally and quickly. Can you imagine the outcry if even one of those prisoners dies? Let's get on with it. The prisoners have been pumped for information, so either charge them or send them to their home countries to be charged. And to those who think the prisoners would get light sentences in their home countries, you forget that Saudi Arabia has BEHEADED suspected terrorists in the past - without a trial. Send them to their home countries to be tried the way that John Walker is being tried in the U.S.- with a lawyer and due process.
Zina, New York, USA

If the prisoners choose to starve themselves, instead of waiting to prove their innocence, we should just let them

Beth, UK
I find it amazing that the human rights of such a small group of terrorists evokes so much passion in so many people - there are so many other issues of far greater importance in the UK and the US. If the prisoners choose to starve themselves, instead of waiting to prove their innocence, I feel we should just let them - the risk of anything similar to the awful events of 11 September is reason enough.
Beth, UK

I think the detainees should be tried by the American courts as it was against the USA that the terrorism was directed in the first place. Why should we pay for lawyers and then pay to have them detained in HM prisons, only for them to be released after some years to take up the cause again. We have enough problems with asylum seekers wanting to live here. How many more people want to come and sponge off us?
Jill, UK

If these prisoners want to starve themselves to death, let them do it. It'll save a lot of time and money that would be better spent somewhere else.
Alan, London, UK

As far as Americans are concerned, all of these prisoners, including the American Taleban, should be executed. They do not deserve the constitutional rights as Americans because they are not Americans and secondly, they were caught on foreign soil. If the USA wanted to give them rights, we would house them in the states and they would be in our prison system and not in Cuba. As for the American Taleban, he should be stripped of his citizenship and then executed for treason. We Americans do not have any special feelings for any of these terrorists whether they are American or foreigners. We hold them all in the same light. They are what they are - terrorists!
Tina Simpson, USA

To Tina Simpson, USA: Aren't you forgetting the basic tenet of the US legal system - that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. You seem to be imposing guilt on these men. Why? Because Bush and his band of merry men says so. Have we any hard evidence? And please don't give me the excuse that details cannot be given for our own security - the day we start believing everything that our government or the FBI tells us is the we can kiss our freedoms goodbye. The prisoners have rights, if not under the US constitution, then certainly under international law.
Janeen, USA

To Janeen, USA: I do know our legal system very well. Innocent until proven guilty is a right for US citizens and anyone committing a crime on US soil. These terrorists were captured in Afghanistan, not the USA so there "innocent until proven guilty" claim is moot as far as I'm concerned. They were caught in battle against our coalition fighting for terrorism, therefore, I have every right to say they are guilty. You seem so eager to defend terrorists' rights but what rights did those killed on 9/11 have? Did those terrorists care about their freedom to live and their pursuit of happiness? I don't believe everything my government says but I like the action Bush has taken. It is about time an administration is concerned about the well-being of its citizens instead of himself as did the former president. Someone must stand up to these terrorists to let them know that their actions are unacceptable in this world. You cannot be passive in times of brutality. Terrorists cannot live in the same world as decent law-abiding people. We all want peace but until the violence of terrorism is stopped, peace will never come.
Tina Simpson, USA

The people being detained in camp X-ray are not prisoners of war, because according to the Geneva Convention POW status requires that the prisoner is captured wearing a uniform. These criminals can therefore be defined as "spies", and it would in fact be within the rights of the USA to execute them. Anything that the USA does to them is therefore justified. I agree with Lee (below) in that since the prisoners are not on American soil, they do not come under the protection of the Constitution, and that if they are extradited to their countries of origin, most of them would receive light (if any) penalties. And since there is a war going on, in which America is doing nearly all of the fighting against an enemy that presents the biggest threat to world peace since the Cold War, I think there are some mitigating circumstances to this "violation of human rights". I would like to further mention that if the positions were reversed, do you think al-Qaeda would care about American soldier's human rights?
Richard Murray, UK

The US has flaunted all sorts of international laws.

Tridiv Borah, Germany / India
Wrong questions have been asked in all these discussions, and I am not too sure if this is actually a strategy. The question should be: Did US follow the rules of international law in capturing and detaining these individuals? The answer is no. The US has flaunted all sorts of international laws, made mockery of international organisations, and acted like "mafia dons".
Tridiv Borah, Germany / India

The so-called "British" men captured in Afghanistan should be stripped of British citizenship and returned to Afghanistan. We need to send a strong message that if a British citizen opts to fight for a foreign organisation or country, then they are effectively relinquishing British citizenship. These people are our enemies, not fellow citizens. Enough is enough: we do not want them in the UK.
Michael Entill, UK

I say that we take the prisoners and put them to work in Afghanistan. Let them be responsible for building back up what they have torn down.
John, United States

I think the fate of the detainees is tied to three important issues. First, the practical issue of determining which, if any of them truly are connected to any terrorist group. Not an easy thing to find out. Second, on what legal basis should any trials be held? Third, how can the Bush administration show positive results for it's policies? All three present a host of difficulties. Nevertheless, all must be addressed in a way which does the least harm to the detainees, to our system of justice, and gives the least offence to all person's sense of fairness.
Larry Dabolt, USA

I think the US has had these people long enough.

Adrian Woodside, UK in USA
I think the US has had these people long enough. They should be returned to their respective countries for trial. After all many of you have presumed their guilt because "the government" said so! Well, sorry for doubting, but I don't believe half what the government says anyway. And of course the US does not have jurisdiction, because whatever crimes they may have committed weren't on US soil. What law did they break anyway? After all these men should be judged on there acts not their beliefs. And if shooting at our troops is all they have as evidence well, I would do the same if uninvited foreign troops landed on my soil. Remember we were in their country. And for the UK prisoners, the UK should demand the release of the British prisoners into British custody. After all we have a lot more experience in dealing with terrorists than those in the US.
Adrian Woodside, UK in US

Every civilized society has a right to defend itself against those who are determined to destroy it, even the United States. These prisoners are part of a vast international conspiracy that is so tenacious and fanatical that they could never be considered safe to re-integrate into the general population of any country. Keeping them imprisoned indefinitely serves no purpose and risks their escape or release for ransom to other terrorists as we saw in the Indian plane hijacking incident. Therefore there is only one logical fate for these prisoners, execution. The real issue is not the prisoners themselves but how the rest of us deal with those who speak out in their defence.
Mark, USA

Although this is an emotive issue, we should not forget that if we are to continue thinking of ourselves as the good guys we must start acting accordingly. If we are fighting for freedom from fear, oppression and for wider equality and access to justice then we must practice what we preach. To do otherwise is to admit that we are seeking revenge for the crimes committed against us and propagating hatred.
Peter, Wales

As far as the British prisoners are concerned, I really, really hope that they never set foot back in this country. They chose to betray their nation, they took up weapons against their brothers & sisters here and willingly cooperated with the enemies of their country. As the UK no longer has a legal system to protect the innocent, law-abiding citizens, I would not want one more penny of taxpayers money to be wasted on these traitors. Either execute them or ship them back to Afghanistan to rot.
Frank, England

It is logical to deal with these individuals on a case by case basis

Michael Miles, USA
The US is in an interesting dilemma. First, to release them wholesale would put the nation and perhaps other nations at risk. To keep them without trial goes against everything we claim our country to be about. Therefore, it is logical to deal with these individuals on a case by case basis and either turn them over to their original homelands as prisoners, try them according to international law or treat them as prisoners of war. To hold them indefinitely as enticing as that may be, smacks too much of the Russian gulags.
Michael Miles, USA

I'd like to see the X-Ray prisoners tried in a Hague-style international court. This seems appropriate and would, I think, go down much better internationally than the US unilaterally dishing out justice. I'm all for keeping dangerous prisoners contained, but at the same time, we should remember that there is not yet any PROOF that these men are criminals.
Rich, UK

Try them for the crimes that befit them

JR, England
Why all the fuss? These guys were fighting for al-Qaeda one way or another. Why should I weep for any Brit that has taken it upon himself to go and fight our forces with an oppressive terrorist regime? Do I want them repatriated? No, to be quite frank. Try them for the crimes that befit them or send them back to Afghanistan to face charges from the new government there. I don't want to think about them strolling the streets of Finsbury Park and being treated as "warriors".
JR, England

It was a mistake to capture them in the first place. Why should they be released so they can come back and fight us again?
R. Soper, USA

When these prisoners are released (as they undoubtedly should be), what sort of demonstration have we given them as to the merits of democracy? They will just go back home and now have a personal reason to attack the US.
Olly, UK

They should be put through the same kind of war crimes trial as Slobodan Milosevic and his associates. That would stop the death penalty - so the liberals would stop whining- but at the same time the public would have full access to the trial process. Also it would mean the relatives of the 3-5000 people killed last September wouldn't quite lose the opportunity for justice.
Ken, UK

Held in US custody indefinitely? Without any form of trial? I cannot believe that the US has decided to strip people of their human rights in this manner. The reactionary politics of the current administration since Sept 11 is turning out to be the most offensive aspect of the last few months.
David Earls, UK

The human rights of their potential victims is of overriding importance.

Bryan, UK
The prisoners should not be released if there is the remotest chance that they will be involved in terrorist attacks on civilians in the future. Their human rights are a concern of course but the human rights of their potential victims is of overriding importance. Unfortunately this seems to be too difficult a concept for human rights activists to grasp. Or is it too cynical to suggest that human rights lawyers can't make a living out of potential victims?
Bryan, UK

Given that these prisoners are not classed as POWs and that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute them, what grounds does the US have for not releasing them immediately? Remember they also told us they had a wealth of evidence against a British resident, Lotfi Raisi - they eventually admitted there was no evidence and he was released after 5 months. Perhaps the will retrospectively classify these Camp X-Ray prisoners as POWs to deflect accusations of unlawful detention.
Rachel, UK

Many of these people have not done anything directly against the Americans, do you think everyone of them knew and approved of the attack on the World Trade Towers? They were fighting a battle which they saw fit to fight. To say this is only an American problem is self centred, it is an international problem and the Americans should listen to the advice of their allies - whether they like it or not.
Gregory Patton, United Kingdom

I would be the first to criticise America for many of their foreign policies past and present, but I think a lot of people a being rather unfair here. I think the mistake America made was in being too hasty in removing them from Afghanistan without thinking through the long term consequences. As for the shackling, the American penal system ALWAYS shackles prisoners in transit, whatever the offence. If you ask yourself, how would these people treat American prisoners, we have all had the answer to that one. Don't forget, they were in Afghanistan to fight for the continued oppression of the Afghan people. To the Afghans they are foreign terrorists and it is in Afghanistan that they should be tried. Under Sharia law.
Mick B, UK

I chuckle at the people on this forum that say release them back into society. Do you people not have an ounce of common sense? Many of these prisoners have outright said they would love to kill their guards, amongst many other Americans. I don't doubt that some of these captured men are innocent, and hopefully they will be released in time. But as for the others, line them up and do it Afghani style!
Eric Allen, USA

As the US declared the attacks as an act of war, surely these people are prisoners of war and not really guilty of any criminals as such? POWs are usually released at the end of a war... so surely they should be sent back to their own countries? It just seems like one giant political mess. Not to mention great profits for the US arms industry!
Tony Kenny, UK

While these people are held, the world is that little bit safer

Simon Mallett, UK
While these people are held, the world is that little bit safer. Release them and innocent people will die. Why do my and many others' lives have to be placed at risk to satisfy the lawyers and human rights activists who have little regard to the rights of the innocent? If they must be released, then fly them back to Afghanistan where they claim to have been illegally removed from and hand them over to the people they subjected to so much terror.
Simon Mallett, UK

How about getting some liberal Muslims in to show them they've been exploited? Education is the only way to combat extremism.
John, UK

These detainees should be released immediately and sent to their homes

Mike Brown
(British ex-pat)
Saudi Arabia
The treatment of these detainees is extremely horrifying. Look at the first photograph we saw of the detainees sitting cross-legged with feet behind them, wearing goggles, gloves and earmuffs. Try sitting in the same position for 10 seconds. It is excruciatingly painful. And the goggles, earmuffs and gloves, these are known methods of torture where the senses are played with. The US Government is the one who should be charged. These detainees should be released immediately and sent to their homes. There is no shred of evidence for charging these men with anything. The US can tell any lies they want, but where are the external sources to confirm their claims?
Mike Brown (British ex-pat) Saudi Arabia

Our country has lost its backbone to its enemy

Belinda de Lucy, UK
Britain is the country these men betrayed - they would have slaughtered British soldiers in the name of religion without hesitation. But if they're shipped back here, we won't prosecute them. The only law that we could use to charge them with - treason - was implemented in 1351 and politically correct gurus are going to dismiss this law saying it is not relevant to today's multiracial community.

The only other law they can be charged under is the Terrorist Act of 2000 and this is useless because it's hard to prove the men were directly involved in al-Qaeda. All the confessions the men made over in America admitting to al-Qaeda connections will not be allowed to be used here because they were not given the right to legal advice or the right to remain silent. Believe you m, these men will get away scot-free in a British climate that is more obsessed with political correctness than national security. What a shame our country has lost its backbone to its enemy.
Belinda de Lucy, UK

I think the prisoners themselves will prefer to stay in Camp X-Ray rather than return to Afghanistan to face justice.
Amina Natsaralah, England

America prefers to detain people first and establish evidence afterwards

James Taylor, UK
It is increasingly clear that the US has little or no evidence against many of the men it has detained. We see from cases in the UK that America prefers to detain people first and try to establish evidence afterwards. If they have no evidence then the men should be released as quickly as possible and repatriated. If they have evidence then they should make it public and prosecute the individuals in an open and fair manner.
James Taylor, UK

If these people were judged dangerous enough to warrant such extreme incarceration, do you think they've become genteel rehabilitated people? How do you guarantee they will be securely held once they are out of your control? The only option is for them to be given a fair trial and sentenced to a prison term at a special prison constructed just for the purpose. It would be the height of folly to release these people back into society unless you fancy suicide bombers at Trafalgar Square. The spectre of the nuclear bomb in the briefcase and the cyanide canister in the water supply may well become a reality if any of these people ever become free. I know it is a harsh thing to say, but these are harsh times!
Austin Amadasun, Nigeria

They would only seek to attack civilisation similarly again

Robert Morpheal, Canada
How do other nations deal effectively with mass murder and conspiracy to mass murder? I believe that experts in psychology would never be able to vouch that al-Qaeda and the Taleban would ever be completely free of the psychopathy that allowed them to act as they did, and, if there were a parole board, those same experts would recommend that many of al-Qaeda and the Taleban, are far too dangerous to be considered for any future inclusion in human civilisation of any kind, as they would only seek to attack civilisation similarly again.
Robert Morpheal, Canada

What is the US playing at? How did they capture the 500 prisoners they now have and under what terms are they holding them? If this is a war against terrorism then they are prisoners of war and should be held accordingly. If they have committed no war crimes, let them be repatriated to their own countries. The matter needs to be brought to an end before the global support afforded to the US completely breaks down.
Steve Thatcher, England

Release them. They've done their time. Keeping them behind bars isn't helping anyone's bid for world peace.
Mark Blackburn, Essex, UK

They are terrorists that were intending to kill innocent people. Depending on how involved each individual was with terrorism acts then they should be given the death penalty.
Fraser Howse, Essex, England

Many of them have been detained without a scrap of evidence

Jonathan Kelk, UK
This is quite worrying, as it seems to indicate many of them have been detained without a scrap of evidence against them. This is like the police detaining a suspect for months, then not pressing charges - completely unacceptable bearing in mind they are not officially prisoners of war.
Jonathan Kelk, UK

I suspect that governments who are following the US lead of ruthless injustice will dispose of many of these people. The US wants them dead, and they will demand that governments around the world yield to their command ("You kill these guys and we'll push a bit of business your wayż"). The die has now been cast and we'll now all follow the US lead.
Martina, UK

I don't see many other countries volunteering to house them

Nicholas Hados, USA
I hear a lot of comments against the US holding Taleban fighters. I don't see many other countries volunteering to house them. Do you really want these guys roaming around the planet just yet? I think not!
Nicholas Hados, USA

Rumsfeld's statements on this matter indicate that the US regards foreigners to be al-Qaeda and Afghans to be Taleban. This simplistic approach has characterised the US all along - we have had enough of the US jumping to conclusions on flimsy evidence. Undoubtedly many foreigners who fought in Afghanistan were fighting for the Taleban. But these people are not al-Qaeda. The US must take its position seriously and do the right thing by defining the prisoners according to the United States' legal system. Once legally defined, in terms that the international community can understand, we can decide what to do. The US cannot now just shrug its shoulders and pass the buck.
Brendan, UK

If the US releases them, the most appropriate place to send them would be back to Afghanistan.
Simon, UK

The Taleban prisoners should be sent back to Afghanistan where they will be freed or punished, depending on what they have done. The al-Qaeda prisoners, on the other hand, should all be executed.
Stuart Young, UK

This is proof of the unilateralist approach of the US Government

John Molby, UK
Well, this is proof of the unilateralist approach of the US Government. I will not be surprised if they give some of the prisoners POW status later.
John Molby, UK

Let's see now. I'd like to see them released, with public apology from George W. Bush for wasting their time and a large amount of compensation for wrongful arrest and inhumane treatment.
Colin, The Netherlands

They should be tried in civilian courts in their countries of origin as the American Taleban is. At present they are being denied justice.
Josephine Harmsworth, Uganda

They have no constitutional rights - we will treat them as we see fit

Lee, United States
Since the attacks were committed against the United States, the United States should have the right to decide how to try those accused. If they are sent back to their countries of origin, it is my firm belief that they will be given light penalties or set free (being that they are almost all from Arab countries). Those that would be tried by their home countries would probably receive better justice in the United States.

Oh and let's not forget: these animals, that some refer to as prisoners of war at Camp X-Ray, have not set foot on American soil, which for all of you that do not have a constitution, means that they have no constitutional rights guaranteed by the US. We will treat them as we see fit. End of story. When the rest of the world wants to start helping in this battle maybe we will listen to a bit of their advice.
Lee, United States

Before you can decide what to do with each one, you first must know exactly what it is they are being accused of.
Omar Al Marzoqi, United Arab Emirates

The UK's prison system cannot afford to accommodate more religious zealots and freedom fighters. I think the US should send the Camp X-Ray prisoners back to Afghanistan and let their regime deal with them.
Neil Cooper, UK

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