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Teachers: Citizenship: Human rights

Last Updated: Thursday January 27 2005 16:42 GMT

Guantanamo Bay

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Human rights


All the British prisoners have now been released from Camp Delta in Cuba. The detentions at Guantanamo Bay have always been controversial.

Students explore the human rights issues surrounding the Geneva Convention.

Learning aims
  • What is the Geneva Convention?
  • Discuss why human rights need to be upheld


Read the story

Introduce the phrases 'human rights' and 'Geneva Convention' and ask the class about their existing knowledge.

Main Activity

Divide the class into small groups. The students work through these questions in their groups.

1. How would you define 'human rights'?

Something that protects you from being abused by others.

2. What rights do we have?

  • Right to life
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Freedom from torture
  • Right to protest
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • Right to privacy

3. Can you place these rights in order of importance?

4. How should the US treat these prisoners?

Article 5 of the Geneva Convention states that they should be protected by international law until it is proved that they are prisoners-of-war.

Display some ot these pictures:

5. Does the group think they were treated humanely?

6. What would you do if someone violated your rights?

Prompt: Protest, go to the press, phone a lawyer.

7. What can be done to ensure that prisoners rights are being upheld?

Prompt: Thorough examinations by independent groups, eg The Red Cross and Amnesty.

Extension activity

Ask the question: "What can the US do to make sure they do not break the Geneva Convention?"


The groups feedback their ideas to the rest of the class.

Focus the discussion on why human rights are necessary and how they should be upheld.

Teachers' Background

  • Prisoners-of-war must have been part of 'armed forces'. Two key parts of the definition are the wearing of uniforms and the open carrying of arms.

  • Al-Qaeda forces were not part of the regular armed forces of Afghanistan. Instead they fought alongside the Taleban and assisted them.

  • Because of this the US classified the men as unlawful combatants. As the detainees were not legally prisoners-of-war, they were not protected by the Geneva Conventions.

  • In particular, they were not entitled to visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross, although the US military did allow the Red Cross access to the prisoners.

  • Restrictions on the interrogation of prisoners-of-war, contained in the Geneva conventions, did not apply.

  • The detainees were protected by the international human rights laws even if they were not prisoners of war. The human rights organisation Amnesty International feels these laws may have been broken.

  • These laws require humane conditions of detention and fair trials in the event of prosecutions.

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