Red Cross - Guantanamo Photos
May Break Geneva Convention


GENEVA (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday the United States may have violated the Geneva Convention by releasing photographs of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.
The pictures, published in newspapers over the weekend, show a group of prisoners kneeling down, with their arms manacled and wearing large black goggles and ear cups.
ICRC spokesman Darcy Christen said that the Third Geneva Convention on prisoners of war forbade the exposing of captives "to public curiosity."
"I would consider this (the publication) incompatible with the Geneva Convention," he said.
But the Swiss-based humanitarian group declined to comment on what the photographs said about the conditions under which the prisoners were being held.
Human rights groups have accused the United States of treating the captives inhumanely in flying them from Afghanistan hooded and chained to their seats aboard transport planes and then keeping them in open-air cages while more permanent prison quarters are built.
Washington says that the Geneva Conventions, laying out the rights of prisoners and the obligations of their captors, do not apply to the al Qaeda and the Taliban fighters, but it denies suggestions of mistreatment.
It has allowed the ICRC to visit and speak to prisoners -- a key Geneva Convention requirement.
Christen said that he could not say anything about the content of the photographs because the circumstances in which they were taken were not known. However, the ICRC usually refuses to make public its views, preferring to work behind the scenes with the parties involved.
"The pictures will not tell us as much as a private talk with the prisoners," Christen said. "And if we saw them (the pictures), our team in Guantanamo certainly did as well," he added.
Although Washington has said it does not regard the inmates as prisoners of war, the ICRC has made clear that it will be judging their treatment against the conditions spelt out by the international treaties that the United States has signed.
The ICRC team had initially intended to spend a week in Guantanamo but the arrival of more prisoners meant that it was difficult to put any limit on the visit, Christen said.
"They are going to be open-ended because there are more prisoners being flown in, and in any case there have to be follow-up sessions," he said.
The United States accuses the al Qaeda group of fugitive Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden of being behind the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers protected the group before being crushed by massive U.S.-led air strikes.

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