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US

White House demands Red Cross visit for captured soldiers

captives
Ramirez, Stone, center, and Gonzales as they appeared on Serb television

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At the daily morning NATO news conference April 1, Supreme Commander Wesley Clark commented on the capture of 3 U.S. soldiers
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April 1, 1999
Web posted at: 9:53 a.m. EST (1453 GMT)


In this story:

Geneva Convention requires humane treatment

NATO investigating capture

'My heart goes out to them'

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A senior White House official told CNN Thursday that the United States has relayed through Sweden its demands that Yugoslavia treat three captured U.S. Army soldiers humanely and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross or other medical personnel to visit the men immediately.

President Clinton was told about midnight (0500 GMT) that NATO had confirmed the capture of the soldiers by Serb forces, the official said.

"We are thankful they are alive," the White House source said, adding that there are "indications that they have been mistreated very seriously."

The official apparently was referring to bruises on the faces of two of the captured men, when the soldiers appeared on Serb television Thursday.

The Pentagon identified the men as Staff Sgt. Andrew A. Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; and Spc. Steven M. Gonzales, 24, of Huntsville, Texas. Stone is married and has one child.

All three are from the 4th Cavalry of the 1st Infantry Division, stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Geneva Convention of 1949

Its prisoner-of-war provisions include:

  • Prisoners must be kept in a place where their lives are not at risk.

  • They are required only to give their name, rank, serial number and date of birth and may not be coerced into giving other information.

  • They cannot be put on trial.

  • They must be protected against insults and public curiosity.

  • They may be imprisoned until the end of the conflict, but must be released immediately when it ends.

    Text of: Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
  • White House aides said Clinton would comment Thursday about the captured men.

    They said the president also planned to visit Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Thursday, as scheduled, to speak to military families about the risks involved in NATO's campaign in Yugoslavia and make a case for continuing the operation.

    Convention requires humane treatment

    A senior Yugoslav source told CNN Correspondent Alessio Vinci in Belgrade that the men would be treated according to the 1949 Geneva Convention governing prisoners of war.

    But Belgrade officials later said they do not consider the men prisoners of war, because Yugoslavia did not start the conflict and NATO has not declared war on the nation.

    The Convention, however, covers prisoners of any armed conflict.

    Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross should be allowed to visit the captured men under the terms of the Convention, said IRC President Louise Doswald Beck.

    "I cannot tell you when such a visit would take place, but I can tell you it should take place," Beck said.

    The Convention requires that prisoners of an armed conflict be treated humanely and that they be visited by the IRC to confirm their health and safety. The convention does not, however, specify when an IRC visit should take place, Beck said.

    "What we do when we visit is ensure that their treatment is in accordance with the convention," she said.

    Beck said the bruises on the faces of two of the captured men did not necessarily indicate a violation of the Geneva Convention.

    "It depends, of course, on how they got such bruises," she said, explaining that if they were injured during their capture and not afterward it might not be a violation.

    The Serb television broadcast of the three men, which showed them in their camouflage uniforms after their capture, was also not a clear violation of the Convention, Beck said.

    "The convention says they must be protected against insults and public curiosity," she said.

    NATO investigating capture

    The Yugoslav army reported that the men "were captured on Serb territory" Wednesday, but NATO officials said they were part of the NATO peacekeeping force in Macedonia.

    NATO officials initially said the three were about three miles (five kilometers) inside Macedonia at the time of their capture, but NATO's top commander, U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, later said their location was uncertain.

    clark
    Clark says he is proud of NATO forces, especially those deployed in Macedonia  

    "The investigation is continuing in regard to the exact circumstances in which the captured men ended up in Yugoslavia," Clark said.

    He said Yugoslav authorities will "be held accountable" for the welfare of the soldiers.

    "We're very concerned about the safety and welfare of the three soldiers," Clark said. "We've all seen their pictures. We don't like it. We don't like the way they were treated, and we have a long memory."

    Capt. John Clearwater, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, told CNN that the three men had trained for six months for the peacekeeping mission in Macedonia.

    "They were observing the border (with Yugoslavia) and reporting on activities along the border," Clearwater said. "These men knew the terrain. Every indication that we've had is they were operating well within their boundaries (of Macedonia)."

    Clearwater said the commander of the 1st Infantry Division was "taking this very seriously and personally putting in all efforts to make sure these soldiers are treated fairly."

    'My heart goes out to them'

    U.S. Air Force personnel at Aviano Air Base in Italy were among those who watched the Serb television broadcast of the three captives, which was picked up by other TV stations and shown around the world.

    "It was certainly a shocking way to start the day. I saw them bruised and battered and paraded on television," one airman said.

    "My heart goes out to them, we're praying for them," another airman commented.

    NATO deployed 12,000 troops in Macedonia as part of what was to be a peacekeeping force in Kosovo, under the terms of a peace agreement that Yugoslav President Slobodon Milosevic refused to sign.

    Yugoslavia broke off diplomatic relations with the United States after the NATO airstrikes began last week. Sweden is acting as the official liaison between the two countries.

    Correspondents Bill Hemmer, John King and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.


    RELATED STORIES:
    Three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav army
    April 1, 1999
    Hour after hour, Kosovo refugees flow into neighboring countries
    April 1, 1999
    Yeltsin wants emergency G-7 meeting on Kosovo
    April 1, 1999
    Clinton urged to support ground troops in Kosovo
    March 31, 1999
    Serb 'Tiger' condemns war crimes charges
    March 31, 1999

    RELATED SITES:
    Extensive list of Kosovo related sites
      • Kosovo

    Yugoslavia:
      • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
          • Kesovo and Metohija facts
      • Serbia Ministry of Information
      • Serbia Now! News

    Kosovo:
      • Kosova Crisis Center
      • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
      • Kosovo - from Albanian.com

    Military:
      • F-117s arrive at Aviano to support possible NATO operations
      • NATO official site
      • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
      • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
      • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
      • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
      • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis


    Relief:
      • Doctors of the World
      • InterAction
      • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
      • International Committee of the Red Cross
      • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
      • Catholic Relief Services
      • Kosovo Relief
      • ReliefWeb: Home page


    Media:
      • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
      • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
      • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
      • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

    Other:
      • Geneva Convention I
      • Balkan Action Council
      • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
      • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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