Why does the ICRC visit prisoners? Which prisoners does it visit?
People who are taken prisoner or detained in a conflict are regarded by their captors as the enemy, and therefore need the intervention of a neutral, independent body to ensure that they are treated humanely and kept in decent conditions, and that they have the possibility of exchanging news with their families.
Visiting people deprived of their liberty in connection with conflict is a core ICRC protection task. In 2002, the ICRC visited 448,063 prisoners and detainees held in 75 countries. Of these, 149,154 were followed up individually.
International armed conflicts: ICRC visits prisoners of war and interned civilians, who are protected by the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions respectively. Governments are obliged to allow ICRC access.
Internal upheavals and strife: the ICRC will seek to visit people - either fighters or civilians - who are detained (either by governments or other parties) in direct connection with the situation - these are sometimes known as “security” or “political” detainees.
The ICRC's mandate: the Geneva Conventions and the Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
More on this: ICRC visits to persons deprived of their freedom: An internationally mandated task, implemented worldwide - factsheet (January 2002)