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Sunday, 20 January, 2002, 17:46 GMT
'Treat Cuba captives humanely' - Straw
Guantanamo Bay prisoners
Human rights activists object to the men being shackled
The 110 al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects held at a US naval base in Cuba must be treated humanely, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

He also said the UK Government was asking the American authorities how photographs of the prisoners, which appear in Sunday's newspapers, were taken.

The photographs, which have sparked criticism, show the men being subjected to sensory deprivation wearing goggles, ear muffs, surgical masks and heavy gloves.


Prisoners - regardless of their technical status - should be treated humanely and in accordance with customary international law

Jack Straw
Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith, has given his support to the Americans, saying many of the prisoners are "the most dangerous people you will ever find anywhere in the world".

Mr Straw said: "The British Government's position is that prisoners - regardless of their technical status - should be treated humanely and in accordance with customary international law.

"We have always made that clear and the Americans have said they share this view.

"They have accepted visits to Guantanamo Bay by a team from the International Red Cross and by a team of British officials.

"I await the British officials' report."

Click here for details of a prisoner's cell

A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair also urged people to wait for the report rather than "rushing to judgement".

Referring to interrogations of the prisoners, he added: "It is in the interests of all of us, while respecting the human rights of these individuals, that we establish the facts about terrorism in the past and, just as importantly, do all we can to counter terrorism in the future."

Mr Duncan Smith, speaking on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme, said the prisoners were potentially very dangerous.


I do not believe that we will successfully fight a campaign against terror if we publicly treat people in the way in which these photographs suggest

Menzies Campbell
Lib Dems
"These are the same people who broke out of previous capture and killed almost all of their guards.

"These are also, apparently, the same people who helped plan and set up the operation that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York and killed something like 4,000 people," he continued.

"We must make certain that they are held securely and not able to cause any death or mayhem again."

But the chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Donald Anderson, is calling for the men to be given "all the creature comforts" enjoyed by other prisoners.

The Labour MP says reports of the way they are being treated send out the wrong signals.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell also believes the photographs are "undercutting the moral high ground that both Mr Bush and Mr Blair enjoyed as a result of their robust response immediately after 11 September".

"I do not believe that we will successfully fight a campaign against terror if we publicly treat people in the way in which these photographs suggest," he told Sky News.

"We do not set the standards by which we treat prisoners by the standards which al-Qaeda or the Taleban might have used," Mr Campbell continued.

"It is precisely because our standards are different and better and superior that we were engaged in the military action in Afghanistan."

Red cross role

International Red Cross officials started evaluating conditions at the US military camp on Friday.

After the visit, the Red Cross will compile a report on whether the captives are being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.

A US military spokesman said the Red Cross was expected to have staff at the base permanently after international criticism over the way the prisoners have been handled.

Click here for more information on the prison conditions
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 ON THIS STORY
Donald Anderson MP
"I believe the British government should talk very strongly to our US allies"
See also:

28 Dec 01 | Americas
Destination Guantanamo Bay
20 Jan 02 | Americas
In pictures: Camp X-Ray prisoners
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