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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Settles On Rights Of Captives

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush has agreed to apply the Geneva Conventions to Taliban prisoners but said the al-Qaida network could not be considered a state that is party to the treaty, which guarantees a wide range of rights to captives.

But the International Committee of the Red Cross said it considers Taliban and al-Qaida fighters held by U.S. forces to be prisoners of war, despite Washington's latest refusal to accept that. "They were captured in combat [and] we consider them prisoners of war," ICRC spokesman Darcy Christen said Friday.

Bush's decision does not confer prisoner-of-war status, which would have given them protections including the right to disclose only their name, rank and serial number under interrogation and to return home once the conflict is over. And despite acknowledging the conventions apply to the Taliban, Washington said the group would not be granted full prisoner-of-war status.

A spokesman for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who warned the United States it must treat captives humanely, said she felt Washington's decision could be a "step forward," but spokesman Jose Luis Diaz added that her legal advisers were still examining the implications of Bush's announcement.

The ICRC and Robinson said that under the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, any dispute over the status of a prisoner must be settled by a tribunal and not the government of either side in the conflict. "You cannot simply decide ... what applies to one person and what applies to another. This has to go to court because it is a legal decision not a political one," Christen said.