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2002: Camp X-Ray pictures spark outrage

The publication of photographs of prisoners being held at a US military camp in Cuba has led to concern that their human rights are being abused.

The Pentagon has released the pictures showing the detainees kneeling and subjected to sensory deprivation on their arrival at Camp X-Ray, which is housed in a military base at Guantanamo Bay.

They are seen handcuffed, wearing goggles, ear muffs, surgical masks and heavy gloves.

A new group of 34 prisoners have arrived at Camp X-Ray, taking the total number being held there to 144.

US forces captured the men during military operations in Afghanistan on suspicion of links to the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

'Terrible nightmares'

Human rights activists have objected to the prisoners being shackled and kept in temporary eight-by-eight feet cells made of wire mesh and corrugated metal roofs, leaving them subject to adverse weather.

Amnesty International, the human rights group, says conditions there fall below US standards for ordinary prisoners and the men are being degraded.

The director of the British-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Helen Bamber, said: "They will probably have panic attacks, mood changes and terrible nightmares."

But Washington says the pictures show the men arriving at the camp and were not representative of daily life there.

It says they have been treated humanely and been given adequate provisions.

The US military has stressed the prisoners are extremely dangerous and said it will press ahead with plans to expand Camp X-Ray so it can hold 320 prisoners.

Hundreds of detainees remain in custody in Afghanistan awaiting transfer to the camp.

A permanent prison which will hold up to 1,000 detainees is currently under construction at Guantanamo Bay.

Last week, a team from the International Committee of the Red Cross started evaluating conditions at the US military camp and interviewing detainees.

Officials will report on whether the captives are being treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.

But the US insists the men are not PoWs but illegal combatants, which means they can be interrogated without legal representation.

Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners would be tried for war crimes through courts martial or civilian courts, not by secretive military tribunals which could impose the death penalty.

In Context
In 2001, following the 11 September terrorist attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people, the US launched a military campaign in Afghanistan.

The objective was to remove the Taleban regime, which harboured al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden who later admitted carrying out the attacks.

In April 2003, Camp Delta replaced Camp X-Ray and became the permanent facility to hold detainees, who were given cells with solid walls and proper facilities.

At its peak in 2003, Guantanamo Bay held 680 prisoners from around 40 countries - nine of them from Britain - and more than 100 have been released.

The majority have been held without charge.

In 2004, hearings began so detainees could challenge the rules under which they are being held and determine if their detention is legal.

Also, military tribunals, similar to criminal trials, began for some detainees who have been charged with war crimes and conspiring to commit terrorism.

Allegations of abuse of prisoners have continued to surface from previous detainees and human rights groups, which the White House has said will be "fully investigated".

United Nations investigators have called for the closure of the prison which Amnesty International campaigners have compared to a Soviet labour camp.

Even the UK, a strong American ally, has asked for the camp to close, saying it fuels Islamic radicalism.


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