Red Cross to press US on Guantanamo

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said he is planning to meet senior US administration officials in Washington early next year amid concerns about prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq.

    The ICRC has a mandate to check on detainees' conditions

    "I will go to the United States early next year to discuss these subjects, and others," ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said in Geneva on Wednesday.

    "The agenda is quite clear, detention will be a major item," he added.


    Kellenberger met US Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice - who has been appointed to replace Powell next year - and defence department officials in Washington in January 2004.


    Confidential reports


    Since then, extracts of confidential ICRC reports to the US government criticising the treatment of detainees in Iraq, and in Guantanamo Bay, have been leaked in the media.

    ICRC has expressed concerned
    about US detentions

    "We are not publicly commenting on this," Kellenberger said.


    "In our opinion, still some major concerns have not been addressed and that will continue," he added.


    The US in November denied that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had been tortured or mistreated, after a newspaper report cited ICRC findings of torture during an inspection visit in June.


    Another leaked report by the humanitarian agency denounced abuse inflicted on Iraqi prisoners in the US-run Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.


    Detainee conditions


    The ICRC, which has a neutral mandate under the Geneva Conventions to check on the conditions of detainees in conflict areas, maintains confidentiality on the visits and only shares its concerns directly with the authorities involved.


    But the publication of photographs taken by US soldiers showing mistreatment in Abu Ghraib prompted more public criticism.


    The Red Cross agency has also been at odds with the US about the status of prisoners held in Guantanamo since the conflict in Afghanistan.



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