CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: Rumsfeld Insists Captives Are Not Prisoners of War

By Gumbel, Andrew | The Independent (London, England), January 28, 2002 | Go to article overview
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CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM: Rumsfeld Insists Captives Are Not Prisoners of War


Gumbel, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)


DONALD RUMSFELD, the US Defence Secretary, has firmly ruled out prisoner-of-war status for any of the suspected al- Qa'ida and Taliban fighters held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base on Cuba after Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, joined the debate on the detainees' status.

General Powell is reported to be pressing the Bush administration to make a formal declaration of adherence to the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of men held in Afghanistan and Cuba.

What was not immediately clear was whether his call, which followed an international outcry over perceived American arrogance in its handling of prisoners and the terms of their detention in open-air cages, marked a rift within the administration or was a face-saving proposal intended to repair some of the damage done to America's image abroad.

Either way, it was an unusual challenge to established government policy from one of its leading insiders. The White House ruled 10 days ago that the captured men were not prisoners of war and therefore not fully protected by the terms of the Geneva Conventions.

Mr Rumsfeld, making his first visit yesterday to the detention facility in Cuba known as Camp X-Ray, stressed that there was "no ambiguity" on the matter, saying: "They are not PoWs. They will not be determined to be PoWs."

The Bush administration has so far labelled the detainees "unlawful combatants".

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