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Afghanistan / United States - "War against Terror" prisoners in touch with families

06-06-2002 News Release 02/23

Soon after its delegates began visiting prisoners captured in the conflict in Afghanistan and held by the US military, the ICRC was able to offer them its "Red Cross message" service, thus establishing a precious link between the prisoners and their next of kin.

Soon after its delegates began visiting prisoners captured in the conflict in Afghanistan and held by the United States military, the ICRC was able to offer them its traditional " Red Cross message " (RCM) service, thus establishing a precious link between the prisoners and their next of kin. Following a necessarily lengthy process involving censorship by the detaining authorities, these messages have provided families in a number of countries with the first reliable information regarding the whereabouts of their loved ones. By the end of April, 133 RCMs had been collected from prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay and an additional 310 from prisoners held by US forces in Afghanistan. In return, 80 and 40 messages respectively had been delivered to US-held prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan.

The largest number of RCMs addressed to these prisoners have come from the Middle East, Asia and Europe. There is no limit to the number of such messages that a prisoner may write or receive. For reasons of their own, individual prisoners may choose not to communicate with their families.

The ICRC has been visiting prisoners detained in Guantanamo Bay since 18 January in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Third Geneva Convention. It started its visits to US-run places of detention in Afghanistan on 24 December.