International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

American Red Cross, Coastal Bend-Texas Chapter

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ICRC visits Saddam Hussein

 

Fundamental Principles of ICRC Why Red Cross is visiting detainees in Guantanamo Bay Questions & Answers concerning Red Cross's Role 

ICRC to Visit Saddam Hussein

The American Red Cross has received criticism regarding the decision of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Saddam Hussein. Visiting detainees is a unique function of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which acts as an independent guardian of the Geneva Conventions. No other entity within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the American Red Cross, has that role or performs that function.

The Geneva Conventions, which apply to all armed conflicts, require that all captured combatants or prisoners of war (POWs) be visited by the ICRC to help assure the world that their treatment is humane. For example, the ICRC visited the three American servicemen held in a Serbian prison during the Kosovo conflict and arranged for them to send messages to their families back home. During the Gulf War, the ICRC met with 55 U.S. POWs as well as POWs from the UK, France, Germany and Italy.

Under humanitarian law, the ICRC talks with prisoners in private to discuss their treatment, to register them so their families and their government know where they are, and to give them the opportunity to write personal Red Cross Messages to their relatives. If there are any concerns that arise in the course of a visit, the ICRC will discuss them directly and confidentially with the detaining authorities only. The ICRC does not publicly discuss its findings, nor share confidential matters with other parts of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

All members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the ICRC and the American Red Cross, are bound by certain fundamental principles. These principles include humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence and apply equally in times of war and in times of peace.

 

Why does the ICRC visit prisoners? Which prisoners does it visit?

People who are taken prisoner or detained in a conflict are regarded by their captors as the enemy, and therefore need the intervention of a neutral, independent body to ensure that they are treated humanely and kept in decent conditions, and that they have the possibility of exchanging news with their families.

Visiting people deprived of their liberty in connection with conflict is a core ICRC protection task. In 2002, the ICRC visited 448,063 prisoners and detainees held in 75 countries. Of these, 149,154 were followed up individually.

International armed conflicts: ICRC visits prisoners of war and interned civilians, who are protected by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions respectively. Governments are obliged to allow ICRC access.

Internal upheavals and strife: the ICRC will seek to visit people - either fighters or civilians - who are detained (either by governments or other parties) in direct connection with the situation - these are sometimes known as "security" or "political" detainees.

CNN Article 2-21-04

(CNN) -- A three-member delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Saddam Hussein on Saturday, a delegate said.

The former Iraqi dictator has been in coalition custody since his December 13 capture near his hometown of Tikrit. The Red Cross customarily visits prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and has been trying for two months to arrange a visit with Saddam.

The delegation included a physician, and the purpose of the visit was to check Saddam Hussein's health and condition, but they would not comment on either. The visit occurred Saturday afternoon, they said.

"We asked him about his condition of detention," said ICRC representative Nada Doumani -- whether he is getting food, water, good treatment or has a health problem.

She said Saddam had given the Red Cross a written message to his family, but wouldn't disclose contents.

Doumani said "we will repeat this visit."

 

Red Cross visits Saddam Hussein

MSNBC News Services

Updated: 11:29 a.m. ET Feb. 21, 2004

GENEVA - International Red Cross representatives visited Saddam Hussein in U.S. custody for the first time Saturday.

Two Red Cross delegates, one of them a doctor, saw Saddam at an undisclosed detention facility inside Iraq, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

"The visit took place this morning Baghdad time," Antonella Notari told Reuters in Geneva.

Saddam was allowed to write a note to his family, which will be delivered after it is censored, Notari said.

"We were able to tour the premises, and we were able to speak to Mr. Saddam Hussein in private without any witnesses present," she said, adding that ICRC delegates would visit Saddam again at an unspecified time.

Another spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, said delegates checked "to see whether he is getting enough food and water and also to check his health condition."

Neither spokeswoman gave details on 66-year-old Saddam’s appearance or condition during the meeting, which dispelled earlier speculation that the ex-Iraqi leader had been taken out of the country.

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention covering prisoners of war, which Washington has said applies to Saddam, U.S. forces were obliged to give the ICRC access to the former president. But the ICRC will not speak publicly on what conditions it finds. The delegates will, however, share their findings with the U.S.-led coalition forces holding Saddam.

After he was deposed in the U.S.-led war in April, Saddam went on the run for eight months before his capture by American troops from a pit near his hometown of Tikrit.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Why is the Red Cross visiting detainees in Guantanamo Bay?

 

It seems a horror to many Americans that anyone - especially the Red Cross - would be interested in the welfare of the Afghan war detainees being held by the U.S. military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  However, it is our very own government that has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit with the detainees.


Why?


The ICRC is an independent organization that promotes respect for international humanitarian law and is the guardian of the Geneva Conventions - international treaties that provide protection and assistance to victims of armed conflict worldwide.  The United States, along with the other 188 nations signatory to the Geneva Conventions, is committed to meeting the standards of humanitarian treatment described in these treaties.


The Geneva Conventions, which apply to all armed conflicts, require that all captured combatants or prisoners of war (POW's) be visited by the ICRC to help assure the world that their treatment is humane.  This is a legal mandate of the Geneva Conventions and is intended to protect captured combatants from all nations, including the United States, "who have fallen into the power of the enemy."


One of the ICRC's unique roles is to meet with prisoners in private to discuss their treatment.  For example, the ICRC visited three American service men held in a Serbian prison during the Kosovo conflict and arranged for them to send messages to their families back home.  During the Gulf War, the ICRC met with 55 U.S. POWs as well as POWs from the UK, France, Germany, and Italy.


Under humanitarian law, the ICRC talks with prisoners in private to discuss their treatment, to register them sot heir families and their government know where they are, and to give them the opportunity to write personal messages to their relatives.  If there are any concerns that arise in the course of a visit, the ICRC will discuss them directly and confidentially with the detaining authorities only.  The ICRC does not publicly discuss its finding, even with other Red Cross organizations.


All members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the ICRC and the American red Cross, are bound by certain fundamental principles.  These principles include impartiality, neutrality and independence, and apply equally in times of war and in times of peace.  They enable the Red Cross to carry out its humanitarian work wherever needed, including in Guantanamo Bay.


Two additional points must be made and one bears repeating. (1) The American Red Cross does not have a role in conducting visits of captured combatants or POW’s; this is the responsibility of the ICRC. (2) No donations made to the American Red Cross will be or have been used to fund the visits to the detainees. (3) Under articles of the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC is required to visit these detainees.


Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red

 Crescent Movement


Humanity

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavors, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found.  Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being.  It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples.


Impartiality

It makes no discrimination as to the nationality, race, religious beliefs, class, or political opinions.  It endeavors to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress.


Neutrality

In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious, or ideological nature.


Independence

The Movement is independent.  The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with principles of the Movement.


Volunteer Service

TIt is a voluntary relief organization, not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.


Unity

There can be only one Red Cross or Red Crescent society in any one country.  It must be open to all.  It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory.


Universality

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.


 

Questions and Answers


1.  Is the American Red Cross involved with visiting the detainees?

  • No, the American Red Cross does not have a specific role in conducting visits to prisoners of war.  This is the responsibility of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

2.  Will donations to the American Red Cross be used to fund the visits to the detainees?

  • NO

3.  What do we call the people held by the U.S. government and being taken to Guantanamo Bay - prisoners of war or terrorists?

  • The terms prisoners, prisoners of war (POW), detainees, terrorists and criminals have all been used when referring to these individuals.  For the time being, the American Red Cross refers to the individuals being held by the U.S. government in connection with the hostilities in Afghanistan as detainees.  There are complex legal issues relating to their status and the use of other terminology might convey unintended legal or political messages, incompatible with Red Cross impartiality and neutrality.

4.  How does international humanitarian law apply to this situation?

  • The United States in engaged in an international armed conflict (war), with Afghanistan.  International humanitarian law (IHL), including the Geneva Conventions, provides certain protections for persons not taking an active roll in an armed conflict.  Protected persons include civilians, wounded, sick and shipwrecked combatants, and those held in connection with the hostilities, such as POWs.  Types of protection provided include the overall requirement of humane treatment as well as the registration of prisoners by the ICRC.  Further protections for POWs are detailed in the 143 articles of the Third Geneva Convention, which address such issues as food, medical care and communications with family members.

5.  What is the role of the American Red Cross?

  • A specific role for the American Red Cross has not hyet been determined and will depend upon the needs identified.  Under the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC is reponsible for visiting detainees and taking the lead to ensure that they receive treatment in accordance with those treaties.  As an auxiliary in humanitarian service to the U.S. government as provided for by its Congressional Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the Statues of the Red Cross MOevement, the American REd Cross will also provide appropriate humanitarian assistance to detainees during armed conflic int he situations where the authorities call upon us for help.  In keeping with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, the American Red Cross expects to support any ICRC tracing and Red Cross message services between detainees and family members.