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URGENT ALERT: US Treats POWS Inhumanely

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The escalation of ill-treatment, torture and persecution of Afghan and other PoWs is outlined below in IHRC's latest briefing on the treatment of PoWs in Guantanamo, Cuba. This is the latest atrocity committed by coalition powers: the horrors of the fort

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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14th January 2002

1. Introduction
2. Briefing
3. Requested Action

1. Introduction

The escalation of ill-treatment, torture and persecution of Afghan and other PoWs is outlined below in IHRC's latest briefing on the treatment of PoWs in Guantanamo, Cuba. This is the latest atrocity committed by coalition powers: the horrors of the fort massacre, and the parading of captured prisoners are but two other examples.


IHRC is requesting campaigners to bring up the issue of the treatment of these POWs with the UN and the Minister of Foreign Affairs in your country. Specimen letters are provided below. Please contact IHRC if you require fax numbers or emails of ministries.

The issues of international standards of justice regarding prisoners, including prisoners of war, Islamic views of the same and current developments will be examined in detail at IHRC's Prisoners of Faith conference in February. Details follow at the end of this email.

2. Briefing

ISLAMIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

_______________________________________________________________________

BRIEFING 14 JANUARY

________________________________________________________________________



US Treats PoWs Inhumanely


Hundreds of captive Taliban fighters are being detained in deplorable, inhuman conditions at the naval compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Such treatments are in direct violation of humanitarian law and international human rights standards and norms.



Conditions of detention
Reports show that they are being held in extreme conditions. The type of treatment they are receiving ranges from being chained, shackled, sedated, to forcefully having their beards shaved off, hooded, and being forced to wear taped over ski goggles. They are being kept in tiny 6x8 chain link cages with metal roofs and concrete floors which offer little protection from the rain or wind. The use of these cages falls below the minimum standard for humane treatment.



Violation of rights
The Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 1984 prohibits detainees, regardless of their suspected crimes, from being subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. Hooding and blindfolding prisoners during interrogation breaches the Convention, as well as the Geneva Conventions which prohibit such acts towards PoWs.



The definition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment encompasses both physical and mental abuse and therefore the permanent or temporary obstruction to the use of the detainees natural senses, in this case through hooding may constitute cruel treatment. Furthermore, it prevents him from identifying officials that may engage in treatment that may violate his human rights.



Although international standards does permit the use of restraints to prevent escape, damage or injury, this must be done humanely, allowing the detainee to move his limbs, to eat and drink and to use the bathroom.



Shaving off their beards, forcefully, violates their right to human dignity as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966.



Forceful sedation of a detainee for a non-medical reason in breach of Principle 5 of the UN Principles of Medical Ethics.



These treatments inflicted as a whole would clearly be beyond the threshold of inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and may be of a sufficient nature and intensity so as to amount to torture.



Legal status of detainees
The US government denies the detainees the status of Prisoner-of-War, instead deciding to label them as illegal combatants in a attempt to deny them basic human rights guaranteed to them by humanitarian and human rights law.



According to the Geneva Conventions, anyone detained in the course of an armed conflict is to be regarded as a PoW until a competent court of tribunal decides otherwise. It is not up to a single person, namely Donald Rumsfeld to decide upon the nature of their status.



According to the Geneva Conventions, to which the USA is a party to, every captured fighter is entitled to humane treatment. This is understood to include basic shelter, clothing, food and medical attention.



Reason for detaining them in Cuba
Technically, Guantanamo Bay is foreign territory and therefore, those detained there cannot claim any rights under the US constitution nor appeal to US federal courts.



Impact of status on right to fair trial
The Geneva Conventions stipulate that PoWs can only be tried by the same courts according to the same procedure as in the case of members of the armed forces of the detaining power. The US intends to try these foreign national suspects at its military tribunals instead of civilian or US military courts. These intended proceedings lack fundamental safeguards as required by international law and would result in a denial of the right to fair trial. The burden of proof is lower and the rules of evidence are easier to satisfy than regular military or civilian courts. The likelihood of conviction is substantially increased by this type of proceedings. The denial of basic procedural safeguards will undoubtedly result in miscarriages of justice.


Conclusion
The war on Afghanistan was initiated on the premises of bringing the perpetrators of September 11 to justice. However, the actions of the US led coalition have failed to observe the fundamental principles of justice. Those suspected of involvements in the atrocities of September 11 must be detained and tried fairly and in accordance with international law. Prisoners-of- war must not be subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.

It is essential that the treatment of the PoWs is governed by human rights and humanitarian law, and that justice is at the top of the agenda rather than its rhetorical use.







For further information contact Press office Tel: (+44) 20 8902 0888 or Fax: (+44) 20 8902 0889. Email: info@ihrc.org, web: www.ihrc.org



3. Suggested Action



Please write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in your country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights demanding that they intercede in this matter.



Specimen letters are given below. The letter to the British Foreign Secretary deals also with the issue of the British Taliban detainees.



Mr Jack Straw MP Name………………….

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Address………………..

King Charles Street

London

SW1A 2AH Date…………………...



Dear Mr Straw,



I am writing to you with the deepest concern regarding deplorable, inhuman treatment of the hundreds of Taliban prisoners-of war that are being detained at the naval compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I urge the British government to intervene and ensure that they are treated humanely and tried fairly in accordance with humanitarian law and human rights standards and norms. In particular, I hope that the government will intervene in the cases of the six Britons, suspected of fighting for the Taliban, and ensure that they are treated humanely.



Reports show that they are being held in extreme conditions. The type of treatment they are receiving ranges from being chained, shackled, sedated, to forcefully having their beards shaved off, hooded, and being forced to wear taped over ski goggles. They are being kept in tiny 6'x8' chain link cages with metal roofs and concrete floors which offer little protection from the rain or wind. The use of these cages falls below the minimum standard for humane treatment. According to the Geneva Conventions, to which the USA is a party to, every captured fighter is entitled to humane treatment. This is understood to include basic shelter, clothing, food and medical attention.



The Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 1984 prohibits detainees, regardless of their suspected crimes, from being subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. Hooding and blindfolding prisoners during interrogation breaches the Convention, as well as the Geneva Conventions which prohibit such acts towards PoWs.



According to the Geneva Conventions, anyone detained in the course of an armed conflict is to be regarded as a PoW until a competent court of tribunal decides otherwise. Furthermore, The Geneva Conventions stipulate that PoWs can only be tried by the same courts according to the same procedure as in the case of members of the armed forces of the detaining power. The US government intends to try these foreign national suspects at its military tribunals instead of civilian or military courts. These intended proceedings lack fundamental safeguards as required by international law and would result in a denial of the right to fair trial.



The US led coalition has failed to observe fundamental principles of justice. We trust that you will take all necessary action to ensure that the treatment of the PoWs are in accordance with international law and that they are not be subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, the British government has obligations towards its citizens and must take immediate action to ensure that its citizens accused of being illegal combatants, are treated in accordance with human rights standards and norms.


We look forward to hearing from you as to what immediate action will be taken to help the Britons and others detained.


Yours sincerely,



Name



Mrs Mary Robinson Name………………….

UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Address………………..

OHCHR-UNOG

8-14 Avenue de la Paix

1211 Geneva 10

Switzerland Date…………………...









Dear Mrs Robinson,



I am writing to you with the deepest concern regarding deplorable, inhuman treatment of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners-of war that are being detained at the naval compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I urge your office to intervene and ensure that they are treated humanely and tried fairly in accordance with humanitarian law and human rights standards and norms.



Reports show that they are being held in extreme conditions. The type of treatment they are receiving ranges from being chained, shackled, sedated, to forcefully having their beards shaved off, hooded, and being forced to wear taped over ski goggles. They are being kept in 6'x8' chain link cages with metal roofs and concrete floors which offer little protection from the rain or wind. The use of these cages falls below the minimum standard for humane treatment. According to the Geneva Conventions, to which the USA is a party to, every captured fighter is entitled to humane treatment. This is understood to include basic shelter, clothing, food and medical attention.



The Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment 1984 prohibits detainees, regardless of their suspected crimes, from being subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment. Hooding and blindfolding prisoners during interrogation breaches the Convention, as well as the Geneva Conventions which prohibit such acts towards PoWs.



According to the Geneva Conventions, anyone detained in the course of an armed conflict is to be regarded as a PoW until a competent court of tribunal decides otherwise. Furthermore, The Geneva Conventions stipulate that PoWs can only be tried by the same courts according to the same procedure as in the case of members of the armed forces of the detaining power. The US government intends to try these foreign national suspects at its military tribunals instead of civilian or military courts. These intended proceedings lack fundamental safeguards as required by international law and would result in a denial of the right to fair trial.



The US led coalition has failed to observe fundamental principles of justice. We trust that you will take all necessary action to ensure that the treatment of the PoWs are in accordance with international law and that they are not be subject to torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.

Yours sincerely,



Name



END

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