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ICRC condemns US stance on secret detention

The ICRC's Jakob Kellenberger is not giving up against Washington Keystone

The International Committee of the Red Cross has deplored the lack of progress by the Bush administration in allowing access to detainees held in secret locations.

This content was published on May 12, 2006 - 10:46

The head of the Swiss-led body, Jakob Kellenberger, expressed his concern after talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior United States officials.

The main aim of his trip to Washington was to ensure ICRC access to all persons held by the US in its fight against terrorism.

"No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person's whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained," Kellenberger said.

He added that in spite of the disappointing lack of results and the current US position, the ICRC would continue to seek access to these persons as a matter of priority.

Dialogue

Asked what channels the ICRC would use to be granted access, spokeswoman Antonella Notari at the organisation's Geneva headquarters told swissinfo on Friday that dialogue would continue.

"We will continue arguing our side of the matter. We do see that there is an issue of security for the United States... in the fight against terrorism, and that they have to protect the population in their country.

"But we are convinced and the president has said so repeatedly that there is a way to find a balance between legitimate security concerns and security measures, and the respect for a lawful procedure, especially when detaining people," she said.

The ICRC, whose work is based on the Geneva convention on armed conflict, is the only independent body the US allows to visit terror suspects detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and it has repeatedly demanded access to detainees in "undisclosed locations".

Challenges

"We do encounter a lot of challenges in the field of international humanitarian law everywhere where we work. We work in almost 80 countries worldwide where there are armed conflicts and internal situations of violence," Notari explained.

She said the ICRC was used to facing the "tough stands" on the part of governments and other parties to conflicts.

"We're also used to being very persistent and very stubborn to continue our efforts. We will do so in this case. The president has clearly announced that."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes with agencies

Key facts

The ICRC's budget in 2004 was SFr940 million.
The United States was the largest donor, contributing SFr167 million.
Switzerland was the second largest, donating SFr92 million.

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In brief

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is an impartial, neutral and independent organisation based in Geneva. A Swiss, Henri Dunant, founded the ICRC in 1863.

It has a permanent mandate under international law to take impartial action for prisoners, the wounded and sick, and civilians affected by conflict.

The ICRC is at the origin of both the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement and of international humanitarian law, notably the Geneva Conventions.

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