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US Rejects Charges It's Mistreating al-Qaida Detainees - 2002-01-15

U.S. Defense officials are rejecting suggestions by some human rights groups that the al-Qaida and Taleban detainees transferred to the U.S. naval base in Cuba are being mistreated in any way.

Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says the detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba are getting humane treatment.

But Ms. Clarke reminds reporters at the Pentagon that the captured al-Qaida and Taleban fighters are being held under extremely tight security because they are extremely dangerous.

"You're talking about people who are incredibly dangerous, incredibly dangerous, who are willing to blow themselves up or do anything possible to hurt and kill others," he said. "So all the precautions are being taken, all the appropriate security precautions are being taken, considering what you are dealing with."

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern about the treatment of the detainees, including the use of chain-link cages to hold them in Cuba and the use of hoods, shackles and sedatives during their transfer from Afghanistan.

In an apparent effort to deflect such criticism, Ms. Clarke says representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ICRC, will soon visit the detainees to check on their treatment.

"But as I said, the ICRC will be in there later this week and I'm sure they'll talking to people about this but they are receiving culturally appropriate meals every day, they are getting showers every day, they are getting medical treatment if they need medical treatment, they are given an opportunity to exercise," he said. "They are getting very humane treatment."

The first 20 al-Qaida and Taleban detainees were transferred from Kandahar to Guantanamo last week.