The US Government has flouted international standards in its round-up of 1,200 foreign nationals in the wake of the September 11 attacks, Amnesty International has warned. In the first detailed independent report examining the sweep, the human rights group paints a bleak picture of what it calls the 'especially punitive' conditions in which some suspects - initially detained during immigration checks - are being held. Some have been denied access to lawyers and their families for months; others never charged or even informed of why they are being held. Some have been put on planes in their orange prison jumpsuits and deported without the knowledge of their families. 'There continues to be a disturbing level of secrecy surrounding the detentions, which has made it more difficult to monitor the situation,' the 40-page report notes. '[The] findings confirm many of the organisation's earlier concerns and suggest that a significant number of detainees continue to be deprived of certain basic rights guaranteed under international law.' Most of the 1,200 people rounded up were Middle Eastern or South Asian men and initially held under tough immigration provisions that allow for an initial detention without charge for 48 hours. Extra provisions passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks allow for longer detention under 'emergency conditions'. Six months on, however, none have been charged with any offence relating to the attacks. About 100 have been charged with criminal offences, most thought to be minor. Some 300 remain in custody. The rest have been deported or released on bail. Amnesty fears some are being held without access to lawyers for basic immigration offences even though the FBI is conducting a broad criminal probe. Some have been held in secure isolation cells for long periods, with little light or room to exercise. Others have been mixed in with the general criminal population, where they have faced beatings. Some have been shackled on occasion while others, according to lawyers, have shown signs of 'depression and mental stress'. The report appears to make a mockery of Attorney-General John Ashcroft's claim that all detainees would be given access to lawyers. The report notes that some detainees were initially barred from contacting lawyers. Without easy access to phones, relatives or even basic information, some have struggled to get legal help. The problem is further compounded by the fact some have not been informed of why they are being held. Out of some 30 detainees interviewed in a Brooklyn prison late last year, 19 had no legal representation, some giving up after repeated attempts to get help. One man had gone 112 days without seeing anyone other than a US government official. 'Amnesty International recognises that the Government needs to be vigilant in investigating potential 'terrorist' links,' the study notes. 'However, the secrecy surrounding the current proceedings creates the potential for abuse.' 'There is also the concern that the immigration system is being used to hold non-nationals on flimsy evidence pending broad criminal probes, without the safeguards which are present in the criminal justice system.' The report - which the Justice Department has yet to counter in detail - comes amid growing community concern about official treatment of America's diverse immigrant communities in the wake of September 11.