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Bhutan: Memorandum of Understanding renewed

01-10-1998 News Release 98/39

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Royal Bhutanese Government and the ICRC allowing the latter to visit persons detained for " anti-national activities " was renewed on 20 September 1998 following an audience with His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and Home Minister Lyompo Thinley Jamtsho in the Bhutanese capital, Thimpu.

The ICRC started visiting security detainees in Bhutanese prisons in 1993 under a memorandum that was due to lapse in November this year. It has now been renewed for a further five-year period as a mark of the authorities'confidence in the role played by the ICRC in this domain.

Between 17 and 24 September 1998 the ICRC carried out a visit, in accordance with its standard procedures, to 127 detainees in Thimpu District Jail and 54 others in Chamgang Central Jail. During the visit delegates distributed 34 Red Cross messages sent to detainees by relatives living in refugee camps in Jhapa, eastern Nepal. Fifty-five messages were collected from the detainees for delivery when the ICRC next goes to the Jhapa camps. The Royal Bhutanese Government renewed its commitment to authorizing families who live in Nepal to visit relatives detained in Bhutan. Such visits have taken place in the past with the ICRC's assistance.

The King also expressed a keen interest in spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law among the police and armed forces with the cooperation of the ICRC.