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Red Cross launches inspection of Cuba camp

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (CNN) -- The Red Cross has made "some good recommendations" regarding conditions at the U.S. prison camp set up for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Cuba, the Marine officer in charge of the camp said Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, commander of the facility dubbed "Camp X-Ray," said representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross had been granted "full access" to the prison camp.

"They are looking at everything; we appreciate that," he said. "We're having some very frank, very open discussions. They're making some good recommendations, and we're trying to act on them. The facility is only 13 days old, so this is a work in progress."

The Red Cross delegation arrived Thursday and will be able to speak with each of the 110 prisoners, or "detainees," as the Pentagon calls them. A Red Cross spokeswoman, Darcy Christen, said the delegation could stay as long as a week. The organization traditionally renders aid and verifies humane conditions for detainees during war or internal conflicts.

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The group includes a doctor and two linguists fluent in Arabic, Urdu and English, the languages spoken by the detainees. British citizens are among the detainees, and British officials have expressed concerns about their treatment, the Red Cross said.

U.S. officials have refused to classify the detainees as prisoners of war, arguing that they are "unlawful combatants" with no rights under the Geneva Conventions. They insist the captives are being treated in accordance with international law.

Critics have said the Pentagon does not have the authority to decide whether a prisoner is subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention.

Another 60 detainees are scheduled to land at the Guantanamo Bay base on January 23, and the base will eventually house more than 600 detainees, Lehnert said.

The Red Cross committee will submit a report with its findings to the detaining authorities -- in this case the U.S. Southern Command -- as well as to the Pentagon.

The report will not be made public, but Christen said a delegation would return to the camp to check on any improvements to the facility they may have requested.


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