After earlier criticism from human rights organizations and many foreign governments regarding the determination that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 do not apply to the detainees held in Cuba, President Bush shifted position with an announcement that Taliban fighters are covered by the 1949 Geneva Conventions, while al Qaeda fighters are not. Taliban fighters are not to be treated as prisoners of war (POW), however, because they reportedly fail to meet international standards as lawful combatants. The decision is not likely to affect the treatment of any of the detainees held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is not likely to quell all of the criticism. The U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCR) and some human rights organizations argue that all combatants captured on the battlefield are entitled to be treated as POWs until an independent tribunal has determined otherwise.
CRS Report for Congress, RL31367