Accessibility links

ICRC Says It Repeatedly Asked US to Improve Iraqi Prison Conditions - 2004-05-06

The Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross says it has repeatedly asked U.S. authorities to take action to improve the situation of inmates at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. But a Red Cross spokeswoman refused to specify whether the organization alerted U.S. forces to recently revealed incidents of prisoner abuse.

The Red Cross says its representatives have regularly visited Abu Ghraib and spoken privately with prisoners.

The organization's priority is to watch for signs of abuse and immediately complain to authorities, but it does not make public what it tells government officials.

Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notari left open the possibility that the agency expressed concerns to U.S. officials in Iraq about any problems of abuse it may have detected at Abu Ghraib. But she refused to say what it reported.

"We have repeatedly requested the U.S. authorities to take corrective action based on the findings and information that we had," she said. "As a standing procedure, we do not report publicly. We try and maintain a presence and maintain a working relationship with the detaining authorities to influence any change, to bring about any changes that are required."

Ms. Notari is reluctant to say whether the information gathered by Red Cross delegates at Abu Ghraib coincides with graphic images broadcast all over the world of prisoner abuse.

"I do not want to compare the pictures with our findings because I think that would already be misleading," said Antonella Notari. "I simply want people to know that the prisoners were able to speak with us in private and that we have, based on these discussions, and based on our own observations, been able to make very firm recommendations to the U.S. authorities."

The Red Cross spokeswoman says U.S. authorities have followed the agency's recommendations to improve prisoner conditions at Abu Ghraib.

"Our recommendations were taken seriously, and I do think that now, yes, even more, there are other measures that are being planned, and we do, of course, intend to continue our visits and continue to monitor the situation and continue to discuss the situation with the U.S. authorities," she said.

The Red Cross says it has visited more than 10,000 people who have been detained in Iraq since the country was invaded more than a year ago.