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07 February 2002

Bush Says Geneva Convention Applies To Taliban, Not al-Qaida

(Taliban still doesn't qualify as POWs, Fleischer says) (460)
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- President Bush has determined that the Geneva Convention
applies to members of the Taliban militia, but not to members of the
international al-Qaida terrorist network, says White House spokesman
Ari Fleischer.
"Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, however, Taliban detainees
are not entitled to POW [prisoner of war] status," Fleischer said
February 7.
"To qualify as POWs under Article 4, al-Qaida and Taliban detainees
would have to have satisfied four conditions: they would have to be
part of a military hierarchy, they would have to have worn uniforms or
other distinctive signs visible at a distance, they would have to have
carried arms openly, and they would have had to have conducted their
military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war,"
he said.
The Geneva Conventions set international standards for the humane
treatment of prisoners of war. Specifically, Fleischer referred to the
Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, August
12, 1949, and entered into force October 21, 1950.
Fleischer said the war on terrorism is a war not envisaged when the
Geneva Conventions were signed in 1949.
However, Fleischer said the United States will continue to "treat all
Taliban and al-Qaida detainees in Guantanamo Bay humanely and
consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention. They will
continue to receive three appropriate meals a day, excellent medical
care, clothing, shelter, showers, and the opportunity to worship. The
International Committee of the Red Cross can visit each detainee
While the United States has not recognized the Taliban regime as the
legitimate Afghani government, Bush determined that the Taliban
members are covered by the conventions, which Afghanistan is a party
to, he said.
He said the al-Qaida detainees cannot be considered prisoners of war
is because they are not a state party to the Geneva Conventions, and
their members are not entitled to POW status.
"In this war, global terrorists transcend national boundaries and
internationally target the innocent. The president has maintained the
United States' commitment to the principles of the Geneva Convention,
while recognizing that the convention simply does not cover every
situation in which people may be captured or detained by military
forces, as we see in Afghanistan today," Fleischer said.
Currently, the United States is detaining 186 members of the Taliban
militia and al-Qaida terrorist group at Camp X-ray at the Guantanamo
Naval Base in Cuba.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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