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Red Cross Monitors Barred From Guantánamo

New York Times
by William Glaberson
November 16, 2007

A confidential 2003 manual for operating the Guantánamo detention center shows that military officials had a policy of denying detainees access to independent monitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The manual said one goal was to “exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee,” by denying access to the Koran and by preventing visits with Red Cross representatives, who have a long history of monitoring the conditions under which prisoners in international conflicts are held. The document said that even after their initial weeks at Guantánamo, some detainees would not be permitted to see representatives of the International Red Cross, known as the I.C.R.C.

It was permissible, the document said, for some long-term detainees to have “No access. No contact of any kind with the I.C.R.C.”

Some legal experts and advocates for detainees said yesterday that the policy might have violated international law, which provides for such monitoring to assure humanitarian treatment and to limit the ability of governments to hold detainees secretly.

The document, a two-inch-thick operations manual, was first posted on Wikileaks, a Web site that encourages posting of leaked materials. Military officials said that the manual appeared genuine but described outdated policies and that all Guantánamo detainees could now see Red Cross monitors. In response to critics’ assertions that the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, may have violated international law, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Edward M. Bush III, said, “I am in no position to speculate about what happened in 2003.”

Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the organization was aware that it was not seeing all Guantánamo detainees from 2002, when the detention camp was opened, to 2004. He said the policies outlined in the manual “run counter to the manner in which the I.C.R.C. conducts its detention visits at Guantánamo Bay and around the world.”

He added that Red Cross officials worked with American officials “to resolve this issue confidentially, since gaining access to all detainees in full accordance with its standard practice was paramount.”

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