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Context of 'January 24, 2002: Red Cross Concerns Over Guantanamo Detainees Addressed By Military Officers'

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Six days after the first detainees have arrived from Afghanistan, representatives from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) visit Guantanamo. They meet with the prison commanders on January 21 and recommend a number of improvements. [Washington Post, 6/13/2004] The ICRC has noticed some restrictions on religious expression it objects to. During the first week of the prison’s operation, praying according to Islamic custom is not allowed or is at least prevented. When someone calls out the call to prayers, or Azzan, according to detainee Asif Iqbal, guards respond “by either silencing the person who was doing it, or, more frequently, play loud rock music to drown them out.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Notwithstanding the intercession by the ICRC, religious freedoms apparently continue to be restricted, as Mohammed Saghir, a grey-bearded sawmill owner, will later recall. “In the first one-and-a-half months they wouldn’t let us speak to anyone, wouldn’t let us call for prayers or pray in the room,” Saghir says. “I tried to pray and four or five commandos came and they beat me up. If someone would try to make a call for prayer they would beat him up and gag him.” [Guardian, 12/3/2003]

Entity Tags: Asif Iqbal, Mohammed Saghir

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A five-page memo prepared by military officers at Guantanamo lists twenty-nine concerns that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) raised during its visit earlier that month (see January 17-21, 2002). The memo lays out a decision by the detention commanders to provide detainees with items valued by Muslims: cloth for their Korans, daily prayer calls, and shorts for the shower. Detainees will also be told that the orange color of their jumpsuits does not signify a death sentence, which it traditionally does in some Middle Eastern countries. This has apparently not gone unnoticed by US officials. “The detainees think they are being taken to be shot,” the same or a different memo from the Pentagon says. “Should we continue not to tell them what is going on and keep them scared?” [Washington Post, 6/13/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

At Camp Bucca, a large detention camp at Umm Qasr near the Kuwaiti border (officially called the Bucca Theater Internment Facility), representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) witness a shooting incident resulting in the death of one prisoner and the wounding of another. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The head of the delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Guantanamo states that the “seemingly open-ended detention” and the lack of a “clear legal framework” has had an “overall impact on the mental health of the prisoners.” [BBC Radio 4, 7/13/2003] “The uncertainty these detainees face as regards their legal status and their future does have a very adverse impact on their physical and mental well-being,” Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notaria says. “A lot of them are pushed to despair. It is a clear indication that these people are under extreme stress and anxiety.” [Guardian, 7/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Three detainees at Camp Bucca who volunteered for a cleaning job are severely injured when they inadvertently set off a cluster bomb. All three will have their legs amputated. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) interviews a 61-year-old Iraqi who has been imprisoned in Camp Bucca. The elderly man tells the ICRC that at the time of his arrest, he was “tied, hooded, and forced to sit on the hot surface of what he surmised to be the engine of a vehicle….” The ICRC verifies his account noting that the presence of “large crusted lesions” on his buttocks were consistent with his allegation. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visits Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and is appalled by the condition and treatment of the prisoners. The ICRC breaks “off [its] visit and [demands] an immediate explanation from the military prison authorities.” The delegation witnesses prisoners who are “completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness.” According to its February 2004 report to Coalition Forces, “The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was ‘part of the process.’” The ICRC subsequently complains to Coalition Forces. [New York Times, 5/11/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) writes a letter to Gen. Janis Karpinski in relation to a recent shooting incident (see September 22, 2003) at Camp Bucca and recommends that she takes appropriate measures. The same letter also asks her to investigate another incident that took place on September 3 (see September 3, 2003) at the same camp. In that incident, three detainees doing a voluntary cleaning job were severely injured when a cluster bomb went off. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Janis L. Karpinski

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) complains in writing to Coalition Forces about the treatment of prisoners being held at Abu Ghraib prison (see October 2003). [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004; Associated Press, 5/16/2004; New York Times, 5/19/2004] The ICRC’s complaints are then discussed at high levels inside the Bush administration. “We knew that the ICRC had concerns, and in accordance with the matter in which the ICRC does its work, it presented those concerns directly to the command in Baghdad,” Powell will later recall on “Fox News Sunday.” “And I know that some corrective action was taken with respect to those concerns,” he adds. [Associated Press, 5/16/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Cell blocks 1A and 2A, where the infamous Abu Ghraib abuses take place.Cell blocks 1A and 2A, where the infamous Abu Ghraib abuses take place. [Source: CBC]The US military replies to the Red Cross’ November 6 letter (see November 6, 2003), claiming that the prisoners being held in cell bocks 1A and 2A of Abu Ghraib are “security detainees” who are not entitled to “full GC protection as recognized in GCIV/5 [Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention].” The 3-page letter adds that “such protection will be afforded as soon as the security situation in Iraq allows it.” Article 5 allows an occupying power to exempt captives from the protection of the Conventions if they can be shown to be a continuing threat to the occupying force. However according to critics of the administration’s judgment, the provision is supposed to be applied on a case-by-case basis and is not meant to include people who have valuable intelligence. [US Department of the Army, 12/24/2003; New York Times, 5/22/2004] The letter also says that the Red Cross should schedule its visits to the cell bocks 1A and 2A ahead of time instead of showing up unannounced. The response letter—written by Army lawyers in Washington but signed by Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski in Baghdad—claims that such visits could interrupt interrogations. [New York Times, 5/19/2004] In fact, many of the detainees in those cell blocks are not suspected to be security threats.

Entity Tags: Janis L. Karpinski, American Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell and says that the ICRC has “serious concerns about detainees in Iraq,” though according to a senior State Department official, he does not detail them. During his visit, Kellenberger also meets with Condoleezza Rice and, reportedly, with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, though it is unclear what precisely is discussed. White House Spokesman Sean McCormack will later say that “Iraq was not mentioned” during the meeting with Rice. Rather the main topic of discussion was Guantanamo, he says. [Observer, 5/9/2004; Baltimore Sun, 5/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Sean McCormack, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Jakob Kellenberger, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The US restricts the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) access to the Kandahar base, where there is a detention facility. “If Kandahar is being used as a detention facility and people are being detained there, we would expect to have access to them,” ICRC Kabul spokeswoman Jessica Barry says. [Reuters, 5/15/2004] Private non-profit organizations like Amnesty International also find it difficult or impossible to access US-run prisons in Afghanistan. “We have asked for access many times but in general there has been no response,” says Amnesty International’s Nazia Hussein, “so it is very difficult to determine what conditions are like.” [Guardian, 6/23/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Jessica Barry, Nazia Hussein

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

In a confidential June 2004 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) alleges that the techniques used at Guantanamo are “tantamount to torture.” According to the report, the system in place at Guantanamo is designed to break the will of detainees by making them totally dependent on their interrogators through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.” In addition, the organization writes, detainees are subjected to “some beatings.” These methods, according to the ICRC, are increasingly “more refined and repressive” in comparison to what is observed during earlier missions. The report concludes: “The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.” [Neil A. Lewis, 11/30/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Former detainees Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, and Rhuhel Ahmed release a “composite statement” describing in detail their experiences as detainees in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Mark Jacobson, a former Defense Department official who worked on detainee issues in the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as part of the Detainee Policy Group, will call the report “a wonderful piece of propaganda” that mixes some truth with lies and misinterpretations. [Boston Globe, 8/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul, Rhuhel Ahmed, Mark Jacobson

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

In response to allegations (see July 26, 2004) made by the “Tipton Three”, Florian Westphal, spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), says: “Some of the abuses alleged by the detainees would indeed constitute inhuman treatment.… Inhuman treatment constitutes a grave breach of the Third Geneva Convention and these are often also described as war crimes.” [Guardian, 8/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Rhuhel Ahmed, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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