U.S. delegation says detainees in Cuba treated well
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of the first House delegation to visit Afghan detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said Friday they believe detainees are being treated well there -- maybe better than some Americans at home.
"These people are being afforded better medical care than some of our veterans," said Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, one of 17 House members who toured Camp X-Ray. "They're getting better food than some of the senior citizens even in my district, and on a regular basis. ... We saw absolutely no evidence of mistreatment."
The other representatives echoed that assessment.
"We felt that the principles of the third Geneva Convention of 1949 were basically being followed," said Rep. Connie Morella, R-Maryland. "They do have water, they have food, shelter. They have medical treatment. ... We came back feeling that a good job was being done under the difficult circumstances."
Many human rights organizations have raised concerns about the conditions and treatment of the 168 detainees, who are kept in 8-by-8-foot outdoor cells, with solid roofs and walls made of fencing material.
The military began transferring prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo this month. It classifies the detainees as "war criminals," not prisoners of war, thereby exempting them from requirements under the 1949 Geneva Convention, which was ratified but not signed by the United States.
Despite this, military officials contend the United States is treating the prisoners well, while still maintaining rigid security measures.
Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, confirmed the military position.
"I believe that the United States is in fact exceeding the requirements of international law and human rights in the treatment of these people," DeFazio said.
Senators who also visited the detention facility praised the treatment of the detainees.
"The command structure at Guantanamo is committed to doing everything they can to maintain security and safety while at the same time meeting all the human rights requirements and more that are necessary for these prisoners," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama.
House members defended how the detainees are restrained, noting they are not restrained in their cells, but they are when they are taken out.
"These are very, very dangerous people," DeFazio said. "They were screened and chosen and sent first because of their leadership roles either in al Qaeda or the Taliban. We are told that there were statements by one of the detainees that when he gets the chance he intends to kill Americans."
As many as 600 detainees are expected to be housed at Camp X-Ray.
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