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Red Cross: Gitmo Conditions Better
Agence France-Presse  |  April 25, 2006
Conditions for detainees at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have improved "considerably" over the past four years, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday.

"Detention conditions at Guantanamo... have improved considerably, no doubt largely thanks to the ICRC's insistence," ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger told the Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve.

"That does not mean everything is going on without a problem," he added.

The ICRC is the only humanitarian agency allowed into the detention centre to carry out its traditional mission to visit detainees and to ensure they are being treated humanely.

Kellenberger said the ICRC -- which has an internationally recognised role as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, commonly known as the laws of war -- has been making recommendations to Washington on detention conditions for four years.

The agency "still disagrees with Washington about the legal regime applicable to the 'war against terror'," he underlined.

Washington does not acknowledge that the detainees in Guantanamo -- thought to be mainly Al-Qaeda suspects and Taliban fighters from Afghanistan -- are prisoners of war or entitled to the full protection of the Geneva Conventions.

Kellenberger said he was satisfied with the way that ICRC delegates were allowed to carry out their visits to the detention centre.

The agency normally insists that it can conduct private interviews with detainees on an individual basis.

With Guantanamo Bay, the ICRC has departed from its traditional rule of confidential contacts with authorities about the outcome of visits on at least two occasions.

Last October, the ICRC said publicly that it was concerned about hunger strikers there. It has also revealed that it had reported to US authorities in 2002 and 2003 that detainees at Guantanamo Bay were alleging that the Koran was being disrespected.

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