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Red Cross warned US about Abu Ghraib
May 07, 2004 14:24 IST
The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that it repeatedly warned US authorities about the conditions at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, report agencies.
ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari told news agencies that Red Cross representatives have regularly visited Abu Ghraib and spoken privately with prisoners.
"We have repeatedly requested the US authorities to take corrective action based on the findings and information that we had," she said. "As a standing procedure, we do not report publicly. We try and maintain a presence and maintain a working relationship with the detaining authorities to influence any change, to bring about any changes that are required."
"I do not want to compare the pictures with our findings because I think that would already be misleading. I simply want people to know that the prisoners were able to speak with us in private and that we have, based on these discussions, and based on our own observations, been able to make very firm recommendations to the US authorities," she said.
In Washington, CNN quoted state department officials as saying that the ICRC started discussing allegations of prison abuse of Iraqi prisoners in February, at which point Secretary of State Colin Powell began raising the issue with other Cabinet members.
Powell "wanted to make sure the concerns of the [Red Cross] were addressed," and "the administration was open to the recommendations of the [Red Cross]," the network quoted a state department official as saying.
According to the official, the US also heard charges of abuse of Iraqi prisoners from the UN special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, who also engaged Robert Blackwell, the White House point man on Iraq.
Powell first became aware of the prison abuse allegations in January, when they were reported "internally" throughout the US government, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. But the Red Cross had been raising questions about possible abuse before that, Boucher said.
"An investigation was started within a day of these initial internal reports, and then two days after that it was announced to the media that we had received allegations, we were investigating them," Boucher said.
"So certainly since that time we've all known that there have been allegations of abuse at this particular location."