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Which prisoners of war (POWs) has the ICRC been able to visit in connection with the war in Iraq? What can the ICRC do for them and is their status clear?

03-04-2003 FAQ

As at 1 April the ICRC had started visiting one camp in southern Iraq, where Iraqi POWs were being held by coalition forces.

ICRC delegates were first shown around the premises, then started to register the prisoners whom the detaining authorities had announced as being held in the camp. Once all the prisoners are registered, the ICRC as a matter of course holds interviews with each detainee in private, without the authorities being present.

Active negotiations were under way at the highest level to arrange visits to members of coalition forces held by the Iraqi authorities.

The ICRC visits prisoners of war held by all parties to the conflict as part of its mandate under the Third Geneva Convention. In an international armed conflict such as this, all combatants are quite clearly entitled to POW status, with the protection that this involves. If any doubts should arise concerning particular cases, this protection applies unless a competent tribunal decides otherwise.

The ICRC's concern is to ensure that prisoners are treated humanely and held in decent conditions. Where possible, it informs their relatives that they are being detained, and arranges for prisoners and their families to exchange news.