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Human Rights Watch Seeks Access to Afghan Detainees

Visits to Afghanistan Camps Sought

(New York) -- Human Rights Watch asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for access to U.S. facilities in Afghanistan to investigate the conditions under which detainees are being held by U.S. armed forces.

In a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld sent today, Human Rights Watch asserted that it was in the U.S. interest to have the public informed about the detainees' treatment. The Bush Administration has pledged to treat all detainees humanely, recognizing that failing to do so would jeopardize American servicemen and the credibility of any future American efforts to insist that other governments treat detainees properly.

"The public needs to see for itself if the U.S. is living up to its commitments," said Jamie Fellner, Director of the U.S. Program for Human Rights Watch. "It's time to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding the camps in Afghanistan."

Human Rights Watch reminded Secretary Rumsefled of his pledge to bring "transparency" to the U.S. treatment of detainees. No independent human rights group that can publicly comment on detainees' conditions of confinement has yet visited the U.S. facilities in Afghanistan or Cuba where detainees are being held. While the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the facilities, it does not release its findings to the public.

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