- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Agence France-Presse) — An Afghan detainee at the U.S. naval base told military judges yesterday how he was forced to become a Taliban fighter, in the latest U.S. military tribunal for inmates at the prison camp.

But the tribunal told him that his story was irrelevant to its task of determining whether he was an “enemy combatant” and refused to allow him to call witnesses to back his case.

The 49-year-old Afghan was the 10th detainee at the U.S. camp to have his case discussed by the tribunal at Camp Delta and the second to be observed by the press. Five of the 10 inmates have refused to attend their hearings.

Also yesterday, the Red Cross announced that charges of beatings and other interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo could constitute war crimes.

The Red Cross made the statement in light of charges by three men in England who say they were beaten, shackled, photographed naked and, in one incident, questioned at gunpoint while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay for two years.

“Some of the abuses alleged by the detainees would indeed constitute inhuman treatment,” Florian Westphal, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva told United Press International. “Inhuman treatment constitutes a grave breach of the third Geneva Convention, and these are often also described as war crimes.”

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said the United States operated “a safe, humane and professional detention operation.”

The Afghan man at yesterday’s hearing, who cannot be named, said that in October 2001, as U.S. forces launched their operation against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, the Taliban forced him to leave his house and join them.

He said that he never took part in the fighting and did not have a weapon and that the Taliban leaders in the house where he was kept in the city of Kunduz eventually decided to surrender to opposition Northern Alliance forces led by warlord Rashid Dostam.

The U.S. military representative, an Air Force colonel, said whether the Guantanamo inmate had been forced to join the Taliban was not a factor for the panel to consider when it decides whether he was correctly designated an “enemy combatant.”

Most of the 585 inmates at the camp in Cuba are Taliban and al Qaeda members who were detained during the Afghanistan conflict.

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