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International Red Cross Suspects U.S. Hiding Foreign Detainees

The International Red Cross (IRC) said on July 13, 2004, that it suspects the United States is hiding foreign detainees in prisons throughout the world.

According to Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, terror suspects that the FBI says it has captured have never turned up in detention centers, and the United States has not responded to IRC requests for a list of all detainees.

"These people are, as far as we can tell, detained in locations that are undisclosed not only to us but also to the rest of the world," Notari said.

The United States claims it is cooperating, noting that the IRC has been given access to thousands of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman even asserted that "The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all Defense Department detention operations."

However, U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba refutes that assertion. In his report detailing allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Taguba revealed that military police at the prison had "routinely held persons brought to them by other government agencies without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention."

These "ghost detainees" were moved around the prison on at least one occasion in an effort to hide them from a visiting Red Cross delegation, a maneuver Taguba described as "deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law."

The Geneva Conventions require the United States to give the neutral Geneva, Switzerlandbased IRC access to all prisoners of war and other detainees in order to check on their conditions and to permit them to send messages to their families. In 2003, the IRC visited roughly 500,000 detainees in 80 countries, including nearly 11,000 in Iraq.

No consensus exists as to whether alleged terror suspects are covered by the Geneva Conventions, but Notari said that "for humanitarian reasons," the IRC should be apprised of all detainees.

Source: Tacoma News Tribune (AP)

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