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Guantanamo Bay: Messages grow more precious with time

13-01-2003 News Release 03/05

As time passes in Guantanamo Bay, the ability to send and receive Red Cross messages (brief personal letters to relatives) is assuming ever greater importance for the more than 600 people interned there by the United States, and for their families abroad.

In the year since the first internees began to arrive in Guantanamo Bay, some 3,300 Red Cross messages have been exchanged. They represent a lifeline of contact; especially for internees whose families live in remote areas not covered by postal services, they are often the only way to stay in touch with their relatives.

The ICRC's work to forward these messages spans about 20 countries and involves hundreds of personnel from both the ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies who hand-deliver and collect the messages.

Olivier Martin, who led the ICRC team during the latest visit to Guantanamo Bay, says the message system has become increasingly important: " The longer their captivity lasts, the more the internees feel the effects of separation from their families. For us, this is one of the most important – and rewarding – aspects of our work in Guantanamo. "

The ICRC recently completed a fourth visit to the internees as part of its continuing effort to ensure that they are treated humanely by the US authorities, in line with the principles set out in the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC plans to carry out regular visits to Guantanamo Bay as long as people are interned there.

 Further information: Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 29 30 or ++41 79 217 32 26