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Red Cross had full access to Cuba detainees

Detainees are shackled and escorted by two guards whenever they leave their cells.
Detainees are shackled and escorted by two guards whenever they leave their cells.  

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (CNN) -- After the Red Cross met with Afghan war detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to assess their treatment, the delegation leader said Tuesday his group had full access to the captives and the United States has been receptive to its suggestions.

Urs Boegli, chief Washington representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, spoke to reporters on his way to Washington. It was the first public assessment from the Red Cross since the delegation arrived last week.

The delegates had privacy as they met with the detainees, and were given complete access to all the detainees, although they only met with 30 of them, Boegli said.

Boegli indicated the prisoners were not restrained and were able to shake hands with the Red Cross delegates. The meetings lasted an average of 45 minutes to an hour, he said.

The Pentagon insists international criticism over the treatment of detainees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is misplaced and misinformed. CNN's Jamie McIntyre reports. (January 22)

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The Red Cross made recommendations, some of which have already been implemented by the U.S. military, but Boegli would not say what the recommendations were.

Two of the four delegates will stay at Camp X-Ray, while the other delegates head to Washington where they will file an official report for the U.S. government.

Many human rights organizations have raised concerns about the conditions and treatment of the detainees, who are kept in 8-feet-square outdoor cells, similar to cages.

The Red Cross delegation leader told reporters that the impression of outside groups is not the same as those who have actually seen the camp, indicating there were some distortions.

In Washington on Tuesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized "breathless reports" questioning the treatment of the detainees, saying they came from people who are "uninformed, misinformed or poorly informed."

"The treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is proper, it's humane, it's appropriate and it is fully consistent with international conventions," he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. "No detainee has been harmed. No detainee has been mistreated in any way."

He explained that a photograph released by the U.S. Navy, showing prisoners crouched, wearing goggles, some with ear covers and some with chains on their arms, did not represent how the prisoners were being treated.

Rumsfeld said "at some point, they will either be charged or released," noting that the primary reason for their detention is to prevent future terrorist attacks.

"These people are committed terrorists," he said. "We are keeping them off the street and out of the airlines and out of nuclear power plants and out of ports ... and it seems to me a perfectly reasonable thing to do."

Citing his lack of a law degree, Rumsfeld said he was not clear how any charges against the detainees would be filed.

"We now have people from ... two or three handfuls of countries ... and my first choice would be for many of those to end up back in their countries to be processed through their systems," Rumsfeld said. "We undoubtedly will end up processing them through the criminal justice system ... I suspect there will be some military commissions."

He noted that the detainees have only been in custody and "the process of gathering intelligence information is still going on."

"During that period, the world and certainly the American people can understand the task to keep them from killing more people and that is why they are being detained," he said.




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