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Red Cross in talks with US over detainees
Yahoo News/Reuters
By Stephanie Nebehay
December 9, 2005

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Red Cross said on Friday it was pressing the United States to give it access to prisoners held in secret jails as part of the U.S. war on terror.

"We have said that undisclosed detention is a major concern for us," Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told a news conference.

"We are already visiting very many detainees under U.S. authorities in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan ... We continue to be in an intense dialogue with them with the aim of getting access to all people detained in the framework of the so-called war on terror," he said.

Human rights groups accuse the CIA of running secret prisons in eastern Europe and covertly transporting detainees. They say incommunicado detention often leads to torture.

John Bellinger, the U.S. State Department's legal adviser, acknowledged to reporters in Geneva on Thursday that the ICRC does not have access to all detainees held by U.S. forces, but refused to discuss alleged secret detention centres.

The ICRC has been pressing the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush for two years for information about and access to what the Red Cross calls "an unknown number of people captured as part of the so-called global war on terror and held in undisclosed locations."

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States provided access to most of its detainees.

"The vast majority are treated consistent with the Geneva Conventions. There is a very small, limited number that are not because of the extraordinary threat that they pose," he said.

Ereli declined to say how many detainees posed an "extraordinary" threat.

"Most of them, the vast majority of them, even though we're not legally required to do so, we have treated them and considered them subject to the Geneva Conventions to the point where the ICRC can visit them," he said.


Kellenberger was launching the ICRC's appeal for more than 1 billion Swiss francs for its work in 80 countries next year, with Sudan still its largest aid operation.

Its field budget is projected to be 9.2 percent higher than under the previous annual appeal due to fresh needs, including helping people left homeless by Pakistan's devastating earthquake to survive winter.

"Two operations stand out by their volume very clearly -- Sudan, which is mainly Darfur, and Pakistan," Kellenberger said.

The ICRC is seeking 127.6 million Swiss francs for Sudan, including the south which is merging from a 21-year civil war ended by a peace accord in January.

In the Darfur region, where it deploys some 100 expatriates and up to 800 nationals, it is striving to help people who have not fled to refugee camps to stay self-sufficient.

In all, the neutral humanitarian agency deploys 12,000 people to provide food, medicine, water and sanitation to those caught up in armed conflicts and visits more than 500,000 detainees worldwide each year.

Under the Geneva Conventions the Red Cross MUST have access to all POW's. Since that is not and has not been the case, this is an impeachable offense.