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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MARCH 25, 2003
9:46 AM
CONTACT:  Amnesty International
+44 20 7413 5566

Iraq/USA: No double standards for POWs
 
March 25 - Amnesty International called today on all sides of the conflict to treat prisoners of war (POWs) in full conformity with the Third Geneva Convention.

"They should be treated humanely and not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment and should be given immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross," Amnesty International said.

"We demand that the governments of Iraq, US and the UK respect the laws of war and to treat all detainees in conformity with the Geneva Convention," the organization emphasized.

On 23 March, following the exposure of the US soldiers -- captured by Iraqi forces during the US-led attack on Iraq -- on Iraqi television being interrogated, President George Bush as well as prime minister Tony Blair accused Iraq of breaching the Geneva Convention by showing the captured on TV and demanded fair treatment for the POWs. The same principle applies to Iraqi prisoners of war. Iraqi officials stated that they will respect the Geneva Convention.

On the same day, however, about 30 more detainees were flown from Afghanistan to the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. This brought to about 660 the number of foreign nationals from approximately 40 countries held in the base.

"Despite many requests, we are still denied access to Bagram and Guantánamo Bay prisons and once again we call upon US government to address Amnesty International's concerns about the detainees", the organization added.

" In addition, we call for a full, impartial inquiry into allegations of torture and ill-treatment by US personnel against alleged al-Qa'ida and Taleban detainees held in US Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan".

Amnesty International also called on all media to ensure in its use of images that the dignity of all prisoners of war, whether Iraqi or US or other, is respected.

According to the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war "are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour" (Article 14) and "must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity" (Article 13). Torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war is a grave breach of the Convention (Article 130). Each party to the Convention has an obligation to search for those suspected of having committed such breaches and bring them to justice before its own courts or hand them over for trial to another party (Article 129).

When the first of the detainees arrived in Guantánamo in January 2002, the Pentagon released a photograph of the detainees in orange jumpsuits, kneeling before US soldiers, shackled, handcuffed, and wearing blacked-out goggles over their eyes and masks over their mouths and noses. The photograph shocked world opinion and led Secretary Rumsfeld to acknowledge that it was "probably unfortunate" that the picture had been released, at least without better captioning. He added: "My recollection is that there's something in the Geneva Conventions about press people being around prisoners; that -- and not taking pictures and not saying who they are and not exposing them to ridicule" (Department of Defence News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace, 22 January 2002)

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