British questions treatment of Afghan prisoners

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Posted by campfire hero ( on January 20, 2002 at 17:46:56:

British Questions

The United States has taken hundreds of prisoners in the Afghan campaign, and has transferred more than 140 to temporary outdoor holding pens at a detention facility known as "Camp X-Ray" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The figure includes another 34 that arrived today.

Human rights groups have complained about the conditions, and representatives for the International Committee of the Red Cross have been checking on the prisoners to make sure they're being treated properly.

Now, a close American ally is asking for an explanation of published photos showing kneeling and tightly manacled Camp X-Ray inmates in orange jumpsuits. Detainees also wore blacked out goggles, earmuffs, mouth and nose coverings and mittens.

"I have asked our officials in Guantanamo Bay to establish with the U.S. the circumstances in which these photographs were taken," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a statement.

"The British government's position is that prisoners regardless of their technical status should be treated humanely and in accordance with customary international law," the statement added. "We have always made that clear and the Americans have said they share this view."

Questions about the treatment of the prisoners and the United States' description of them as "detainees" or "unlawful combatants," rather than "prisoners of war," whose treatment is legally defined under Geneva Convention rules have been increasing in Britain in recent days. Donald Anderson, a member of the ruling Labor Party and the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the prisoners should be treated better.

"I believe that the British government should talk very strongly to our U.S. allies and say, 'Look, not only is this wrong, but it's against our interests and your interests in the sense that there will be a diplomatic backlash, that we'll begin to lose not only the high ground but lose the support of some of our allies,'" Anderson said, according to the BBC.

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