July 16, 2004 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced on Tuesday that it believes the United States could be hiding prisoners in jails across the globe, including in occupied countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Geneva Conventions, signed by the United States, oblige governments to permit the international aid organization to access prisoners of war and other detainees so as to facilitate communication with their families and monitor their medical condition.
Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman denied the government is hiding detainees from the Red Cross. But the ICRC announcement comes less than a month after US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted to ordering the secret imprisonment of a suspected resistance fighter held for more than seven months near Baghdad, without notifying the Red Cross.
It also comes in spite of an official ICRC policy not to comment publicly on the conditions it witnesses in the prisons or of the prisoners themselves. Instead, as a matter of course, the ICRC usually opts to communicate privately with the states holding prisoners in question. The ICRCâ€™s policy of keeping quiet has drawn criticism from some sectors, especially since it was revealed that the ICRC knew about the horrific conditions at the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as early as October of last year and chose not to go public with the information.