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Statement on Detention of Taliban and Al Qaida Prisoners

The following was issued today by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson:

According to recent reports, 30 Taliban and Al Qaida prisoners from Afghanistan arrived at the United States Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 14 January, 2002, to join a first group of 20 prisoners transferred from Afghanistan starting on 11 January. The reports include allegations about the manner in which the prisoners were transported and the conditions in which they are being detained.

Detailed information on these specific allegations is not yet available. I am aware that there are a number of legal issues and these are under active consideration by the US authorities. I am also aware that the International Committee of the Red Cross will have access to the prisoners and that there will be consular access.

It is appropriate to recall that there are international legal obligations that should be respected. In particular, I would like to recall that:

· All persons detained in this context are entitled to the protection of international human rights law and humanitarian law, in particular the relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

· The legal status of the detainees, and their entitlement to prisoner-of-war (POW) status, if disputed, must be determined by a competent tribunal, in accordance with the provisions of Article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention.

· All detainees must at all times be treated humanely, consistent with the provisions of the ICCPR and the Third Geneva Convention.

· Any possible trials should be guided by the principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, provided for in the ICCPR and the Third Geneva Convention.

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