Guantanamo Bay 'torture', claims NY Times

According to a report in the New York Times today, The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has criticised the US military for abusing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay with tactics that are "tantamount to torture".

However, as per the organisation's normal policy, the ICRC, who confirmed that a team have been regularly visiting the US detention facility, declined to comment directly on the NY Times report. The ICRC did, however, confirm that the team had been visiting prisoners at Guantanamo Bay since early 2002 "for the purpose of monitoring that persons held there are treated in accordance with applicable international laws and standards".

In a statement the ICRC said: "The contents of the ICRC's representations and reports are confidential and for the exclusive attention of the relevant detaining authorities.

"Therefore, in accordance with its usual policy, the organisation will not publicly confirm or deny whether the quotations in the article entitled "Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantanamo", which appeared in the New York Times of 30 November, reflect findings reported by the ICRC to the United States authorities regarding the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay".

The ICRC does use its exchanges with governments to make clear its concerns and recommendations regarding the situation in places of detention and to demand changes when necessary and noted that Guantanamo Bay was "no exception".

The "neutrality" policy has made it possible for the ICRC to gain repeated and regular access to those held at Guantanamo Bay and to speak with them in private.

Following the creation of the Office of Detainee Affairs in the US Department of Defense, the ICRC said that this had provided a "forum in which issues relating to Guantanamo Bay can be discussed in a more timely and systematic manner".

Today's statement the ICRC said only that they remained "concerned that significant problems regarding conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay have not yet been adequately addressed".

More than 500 people are currently being held at the US Base in Guantamo Bay, most are being held following the US-led military operation to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan.

The organisation has pledged to pursue discussions on these issues privately with US authorities.

For many thousands of detainees worldwide, including those at Guantanamo Bay, visits by ICRC delegates constitute their only contact with the outside world.


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