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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 18:50 GMT
US on trial over prisoners in Cuba
Newspapers around the world have spoken out against - and for - the US treatment of prisoners at its Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba.
Editorial writers warned that Washington would lose the moral high ground in its campaign against terrorism, or simply saw its ideals as already compromised.
A few, however, backed the handling of the Taleban and al-Qaeda captives as necessary.
Italy's La Reppublica declared that arrival of the prisoners at the base in Cuba had begun the second phase of the war on terror.
"From the way these men are to be treated, and from the kind of justice that will be meted out to them, the United States, and we who stand alongside it, will find out whether the military and technological superiority demonstrated on the battlefield is also legal and moral superiority, and whether the war was not revenge, but a lesson in justice and equity," the daily wrote.
"It is absolutely essential, for the ultimate success of the fight against terrorism, that the detention, the trials, and the verdicts are not only humane, but exemplary of everything that the rhetorical formula of 'Western civilization' represents," it declared.
"If Washington sets the right example, there will be no excuse for other countries to abandon principles to which they are legally committed," it wrote.
But the Jordanian English-language daily had a warning:
"If the US improvises and follows whatever suits it today, then its own military personnel, or even civilians captured in future conflicts might suffer the consequences."
War is war
Le Monde in France took a realistic view of US actions, and called on Europe to push for a change of course.
"War is war: right now, the defence of human rights is obviously not the White House's and the Pentagon's main concern," the Paris daily said.
A Saudi editorial was willing to give the USA some leeway for previous good behaviour, but was harshly critical nonetheless.
"While the human rights record of the Americans remains more or less unblemished in general terms, it is truly appalling that they have sought, as reports indicate, to bury human decency when it comes to the Afghan prisoners," Riyadh Daily wrote.
The independent, pro-government paper saw no redeeming points in Britain's actions regarding the three UK citizens in Guantanamo.
Iranian media were unequivocally critical of the United States.
"Human rights is important for that country only when it is used as a tool to exert pressure on countries that are against America," a commentary on Iranian radio declared.
"Otherwise, America does not believe in human rights, especially if it is in connection to the fate of other people."
The Tehran Times compared the treatment of the Afghan and Arab prisoners to that of the captive US Taleban fighter John Walker Lindh.
Spain's El Mundo spoke out against the transport of the prisoners from Afghanistan to Cuba.
"The macho act of moving those Taleban prisoners who are still alive from Afghanistan to Guantanamo to dress them up in orange, hooded, handcuffed and drugged for 15 hours is - even though it was done by plane - a medieval deed and discredits any government," it said.
The Bahrain newspaper Akhbar Al-Khalij took particular offence at the shaving of the captives' beards - and knew exactly what the United States wanted to achieve.
"The real intention is clear," the Arabic-language daily said. "It is to humiliate them and to insult their religious beliefs in order to satisfy their desire for revenge by breaking their morale."
Show of support
"The Afghans had to be shackled; they also had to be shaved," he declared in the British daily.
"Who knows what medical horrors the average Afghan militant's beard might conceal?"
More encouragement came from Uzbekistan's Narodnoye Slovo, which backed the US to the hilt.
The official Uzbek newspaper said that the prisoners in Cuba "are, above all, terrorists or simply barbarians and vandals who posed a challenge to the whole world.
"One should not, therefore, treat them more humanely or provide better conditions for them than the conditions they currently have at Guantanamo."
BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.
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