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ICRC doesn’t publish its reports on prison visits - how can working confidentially be effective in preventing torture?

15-11-2002 FAQ

ICRC believes that the best way that it can prevent or halt torture and ensure decent conditions of detention is by getting repeated and unrestricted access to prisoners, talking to them about their problems, and urging the detaining authorities to make any improvements that may be necessary. The price of this is a policy of confidentiality, taking up the problems only with the people directly concerned.

 Negotiating access: Most of the prisoners ICRC visits (or seeks to visit) are not protected by laws which oblige the authorities to open the gates - access must be negotiated.

 Power of persuasion: The ICRC's discreet approach, in which its findings are reported only to the authority concerned, combined with its professional expertise and neutrality, form the key elements in persuading those in power to adopt, where necessary, more humanitarian measures.

 The limits to discretion: ICRC might decide to break its rule of silence and/or suspend its operation under certain extreme circumstances:

  • if, after repeated approaches and requests, the prisoners'treatment or conditions hasn't improved

  • if the ICRC's usual procedures for visits are not respected

  • if a detaining authority publishes just part of a visit report

Such a decision would have to take into account the best interests of the detainees themselves.


The answers to FAQs on this site are intended as brief, informative summaries of what are often complex matters, and the terminology used has no legal significance.