WASHINGTON – The Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees being held at the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba, are being treated "humanely" and in accordance with Geneva Conventions, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday.
The prisoners, flown to the U.S. military base in Cuba after being captured in Afghanistan, are being given treatment that's "proper, it's humane, it's appropriate, and it is fully consistent with international conventions," Rumsfeld said, rejecting accusations in British tabloids that the detainees are being mistreated.
He said they are receiving "warm showers, toiletries, water, clean clothes, blankets, regular, culturally appropriate meals, prayer mats, and the right to practice their religions."
They also are receiving modern medical care, writing materials and visits from the International Red Cross, the defense secretary said.
The United States has not yet decided if the detainees should be treated as prisoners of war, and for now calls them battlefield detainees. Rumsfeld said the Geneva Conventions call for so-called "unlawful combatants" to be treated humanely, and the United States military is treating them humanely.
"No detainee has been harmed. No detainee has been mistreated in any way," the defense secretary said.
Rumsfeld also said that one of the detainees at Guantanamo has threatened to kill Americans, and another detainee has bitten a U.S. military guard.
The European Union has joined protests from the Netherlands, Germany, British legislators, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, demanding that the detained terrorist suspects from the Afghanistan war be given prisoner-of-war status, subject to the Geneva Conventions.
The EU's external relations commissioner, Chris Patten, said Monday that the West risks losing support in the fight against terrorism if it mistreats the prisoners.
But Rumsfeld said such criticisms were not taking into account the grave danger the detainees pose to military guards. He noted that Al Qaeda prisoners at a fortress at Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan during the war were able to smuggle weapons under their clothing, including grenades, allowing them to stage a deadly uprising.
With that attack in mind, Rumsfeld said the prisoners are now restrained more forcefully when they are taken by plane from Afghanistan to Guantanamo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.