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Amnesty: Iraq/USA - No Double Standards For POWs

Wednesday 26 March 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

IRAQ / USA: No double standards for POWs

Amnesty International called today on all sides of the conflict to treat prisoners of war (POWs) in full conformity with the Third Geneva Convention, and warned, in a new report, against double standards in the upholding of international law.

"The United States Government continues to insist on its right to adopt a selective and inconsistent approach to international human rights standards and is undermining the effectiveness of international law," said Amnesty International's spokesperson, Rebecca Lineham.

"Why should it surprise anyone if any other state then claims for itself the prerogative to adhere to only those portions of international human rights law which suit its purposes?" she asked.

Suspicions of double standards and resentment at hypocrisy are clearly behind much public ambivalence towards the US intervention in New Zealand and many other countries, including Iraq itself.

"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," Ms Lineham said.

On the same day as captured US soldiers were shown on Iraqi television, 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", she 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 continues to call 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.

Background

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.

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).

Read the new report "United States of America: International standards for all" at:

http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/AMR510452003?Open&of=COUNTRIES\USA

For further information contact:

Rebecca Lineham BH 0-4-499 3595 AH 0-4-971 1386 mobile 021 422 562


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