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Red Cross: Guantanamo tactics 'tantamount to torture'
Updated: 2004-11-30 20:17

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has accused the U.S. military of using tactics "tantamount to torture" on prisoners at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

An ICRC inspection team that spent most of June at Guantanamo Bay reported the use of psychological and sometimes physical coercion on the prisoners, the newspaper said.

It said it had recently obtained a memorandum that quoted the report in detail and listed its major findings.

In Geneva, the ICRC said it would neither confirm nor deny the New York Times report -- in which allegations of treatment tantamount to torture go further than what the neutral intermediary has publicly stated before about inmates held at Guantanamo.

But, in a statement, the Geneva-based ICRC said it remained concerned that "significant problems regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay have not yet been adequately addressed," and it was pursuing talks with U.S. authorities.

More than 500 people are being held at the U.S. base in Cuba, detained during the 2001 U.S. war to oust al Qaeda and the ruling Taliban from Afghanistan and in other operations in the U.S. war against terror. The ICRC began visits in early 2002.

The Times said the U.S. government and military officials received the ICRC report in July and rejected its findings.

Asked by the Times about the report, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement: "The United States operates a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism."

The Times said the Red Cross investigators had found a system devised to break the will of prisoners through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions."

"The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture," the Times quoted the report as saying.

Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, the committee's delegate-general for Europe and the Americas, told the newspaper the ICRC could not comment on the report submitted to the U.S. government.

The ICRC has agreed to keep its findings confidential.

Human rights groups and lawyers have criticized the United States for holding prisoners at the base indefinitely and most without charges or legal representation.

The U.S. government has taken the position that the detainees are "enemy combatants" and not entitled to the protections normally given to prisoners of war.

It has begun a process of holding individual trials, called tribunals, for each prisoner to determine their status.

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