ICRC hits US over secret terror detainees
* EU has no specific suspicions about CIA secret prisons
NEW YORK: The international Red Cross said on Friday that it had so far failed to reach an agreement with the United States about access to terror suspects held abroad secretly, despite some two years of talks.
Following newspaper reports this week about secret CIA prisons for terror suspects abroad, spokeswoman Antonella Notari said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been pressing Washington on the issue since at least January 2004.
“The ICRC, for some time already, has repeatedly raised the issue of receiving notification and subsequently access to persons held in undisclosed places of detention, in the context of the so called ‘war on terror’,” Notari told the news agency.
“We have not reached an agreement with the US authorities so far. Our confidential dialogue with them continues,” she added. Under the Geneva Conventions, which guide the ICRC’s checks on conditions for detainees held as a result of conflicts, the agency focuses on the responsibility of the “detaining power” rather than the state in which prisoners are held.
It currently conducts confidential visits to detainees held at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, as well as at undisclosed locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post said the CIA was running a network of secret facilities for captured terror suspects in eight countries, outside the reach of the US justice system.
The rights group Human Rights Watch said it believed Poland and Romania had cooperated with the CIA based on flight records and other evidence.
Notari said there had been instances where US authorities had given news of an arrest, but the detainee had not turned up in any of the locations it visited.
“If that person doesn’t show in any of the places of detention we visit, these are typically cases we might we follow up on. I don’t think there are a lot of cases like that.”
However, the ICRC was not in a position to track down secretly held detainees around the world, she added.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has no specific suspicions that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is running secret prisons in eastern Europe, a spokesman said on Friday.
“At this time we do not have any specific suspicion,” said Friso Roscam Abbing, spokesman for justice and
security affairs at the EU’s executive arm. He said the commission was also satisfied with official denials from Romania and Poland that such facilities existed on their territories.
“I think the statements by the Romanian and Polish authorities are crystal clear,” Roscam Abbing said. “All of those official declarations deny the existence of such possible prisons.”
“We do not see any reason now to ask for further clarification at this point in time. Having said that, we will continue to monitor the situation,” he told reporters in Brussels. agencies