Solana urges POW status for Afghan captives


European Union foreign policy chief Mr Javier Solana said today the detainees from Afghanistan being held in Cuba should be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention.

Asked in a television interview whether the Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees were prisoners of war, or illegal fighters as the United States maintains, Mr Solana said: "For us, treatment of people like this should be as laid down by the international conventions which of course, for Europeans, are part of international law.

"The Geneva Convention should be applied to all those who are arrested in similar circumstances," he said.

The US has flown almost 150 prisoners, shackled and blindfolded during the journey, to its Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba from Afghanistan and is holding them in wire cages.

The US government says its captives are highly dangerous and therefore it is taking extreme security measures. It has not classified them as prisoners of war, a label that carries specific rights under the Geneva Convention.

US Defence Secretary Mr Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that treatment of the prisoners was proper and consistent with the Geneva Convention for the most part.

Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations human rights chief Mrs Mary Robinson have said they consider the captives to be prisoners of war.