The United States has decided that Geneva Convention protections will apply to captured Taleban fighters -- but not to al-Qaida fighters and other terrorists.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer made the announcement today (Thursday), saying the convention applies to Taleban soldiers because Afghanistan is one of the signers of the 1949 treaty. The Taleban ruled most of Afghanistan until late last year, though the United States did not recognize the militia as the legitimate Afghan government.
But Mr. Fleischer said that neither Taleban nor al-Qaida captives will be granted official prisoner of war status.
He said Taleban fighters did not meet Geneva Convention criteria because they did not effectively distinguish themselves from the civilian population. The White House spokesman also said al-Qaida is an international terrorist group and cannot be considered a state party to the convention.
He said the decision will not affect the treatment of Afghan prisoners at the U-S naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because, he says, the United States is already treating those prisoners well.
Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners-of-war are entitled to humane treatment and are allowed to limit their answers under interrogation. Human rights groups and some European governments have pressed for the Guantanamo detainees to be classified as prisoners-of-war, in order to give them greater legal rights.