The break with their usual quiet diplomacy illustrates the Red Cross’s level of frustration at the intransigence of the US administration.
From The Guardian
WASHINGTON (AP) – Taking issue with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the State Department said Friday the United States is not obliged under the Geneva conventions to give the committee access to all prisoners under U.S. jurisdiction.
Department spokesman Sean McCormack commented in response to criticism about U.S. policies by ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger.
Setting aside his normal practice of keeping his views confidential, Kellenberger said in a statement Friday that he deplored the Bush administration’s refusal to allow ICRC access to prisoners being held in secret facilities.
”No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person’s whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained,” Kellenberger said.
He said the ICRC would continue to seek access to these people ”as a matter of priority” despite the ”the disappointing lack of results and the current U.S. position.”
Kellenberger issued his statement through the ICRC’s Geneva headquarters after meetings here with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials.
McCormack said the ICRC has access to the vast majority of prisoners under U.S. jurisdiction.
But, he added, ”There is a certain subcategory of individuals who have forfeited their protections under the Geneva Conventions and there is not an obligation to allow access to those individuals.”
The United States has classified as ”enemy combatants” some detained individuals who are considered terrorists. This status confers fewer legal protections than prisoners of war under the Geneva conventions.
Prisoners in this category ”have been afforded treatment that is consistent with our international obligations. And all the people that are held by the U.S. government are treated humanely,” McCormack said.
Besides meeting with Rice, Kellenberger also spoke with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and other senior U.S. officials.