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United States: ICRC president completes Washington visit

11-04-2014 News Release 14/60

Geneva/Washington D.C. (ICRC) – The president of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, has just completed a four-day official visit to Washington.

On Friday, Mr Maurer met with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. He also took part in a high-level USAID meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Earlier that week, he met the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper; the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan; Deputy Attorney General James Cole; and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, José Miguel Insulza.

Mr Maurer also spoke with senior members of the US Congress and with the leadership of the American Red Cross. He held talks with the Special Envoy for Syria, Daniel Rubinstein, and the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth.

Mr Maurer urged officials and lawmakers to facilitate and accelerate the transfer of detainees, who have already been cleared for transfer, out of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to ensure their safety and dignity afterwards. He also stressed the need for greater clarity for those detainees who have no idea how long they will continue to be held.

“Many of the detainees in Guantanamo have been behind bars for over a decade and are still in the dark about their fate,” said Mr Maurer. “That uncertainty weighs heavily on them and on their families.”

Mr Maurer’s discussions with US officials covered a broad range of subjects: from the upcoming withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, and the humanitarian needs that will persist following that transition, to issues related to the evolution of US military involvement – from fewer “boots on the ground” to more special operations and the use of new technologies, including drones.

“The changing shape of the contemporary battlefield and the use of certain kinds of weapons raise a number of significant questions about the humanitarian consequences of these changes, as well as the respect and application of international humanitarian law, or the law of armed conflict as it’s known in the US," Mr Maurer said. “It is important that the ICRC continue to maintain a constructive dialogue with the US authorities on all related issues in this.”

For further information, please contact:
Anna Nelson, ICRC Washington, tel: +1 202 361 1566 @ICRC_DC
Alexis Heeb, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 218 76 10 @AHeebICRC
ICRC Media Service (out-of-hours), tel: +41 22 730 34 43