Treatment of US detainees attacked

A REVIEW into the detention of hundreds of foreign nationals in the United States following the September 11 attacks has found significant problems in the way they were handled.

The report, by the inspector general of the US Justice Department, says some of the detainees were held in unduly harsh conditions and were subject to abuse.

In the wake of September 11 hundreds of illegal immigrants were rounded up. The report looks into the cases of 762 people who were living in the US illegally and were detained in the 11 months after the attacks.

It concludes that some had to wait more than a month before being charged with any offence, and that they remained in custody for weeks without any investigations taking place as to whether they actually had any links to terrorism.

The report is particularly critical of conditions at the Metropolitan detention centre in New York. Eighty-four of the detainees were held there under what the report calls highly restrictive conditions, including being locked up for at least 23 hours per day.

They were also subject to escort procedures that included handcuffs, leg irons and heavy chains; and a limit of one legal telephone call per week, which the report says prevented them from obtaining timely advice.

Some detainees also suffered a pattern of physical and verbal abuse at the centre.

The Justice Department says its actions were fully within the law, adding that it makes no apologies for finding every legal way possible to protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

Conditions at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have already sparked international concern, with the US refusing to treat those held there as prisoners of war.

Red Cross officials say Taliban and al-Qaida fighters must be considered prisoners of war, something the Bush administration said it would not do.

The White House also said that while members of the former ruling Afghan militia would be covered by the Geneva Convention, fighters for Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida would not. The Bush administration has said the prisoners held at a Camp X-Ray are treated humanely.

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