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Afghanistan: Video links between Bagram detainees and families

14-01-2008 News Release 08/03

Kabul/Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United States have introduced a joint programme to enable individuals held at the US detention facility in Bagram to communicate with their families via video-teleconference calls.

  ©ICRC/Robert Keusen ref. AF-E-01224    
ICRC delegation in Kabul. Detainees speak with their relatives via video-teleconference calls.    
  ©ICRC/Robert Keusen ref.AF-E-01231    
  Emotions run high during video-teleconference calls between detainees and their families.    

   Between 600 and 650 people are currently detained there.

Using equipment supplied by the US military authorities, the ICRC has set up a call centre on the premises of its delegation in Kabul. A similar center has been created at Bagram for the use of detainees. In the first three days since the launch of the programme, which is open to all families of persons detained at Bagram, over 60 families from around the country have been able to speak for 20 minutes to their loved ones. Each party to the call is able to see the other on a screen.

" How fantastic it is to be able to see and talk to my brother, " said Abdul Mohammad, part of a family who came to the delegation. " I don't know what to say, it's so difficult to put this feeling into words. It's a blessing. I will never forget this moment! "

" The system is the first of its kind " , explained Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan. " It was set up basically to reassure detainees and their families by allowing them to see and speak to one another " .

The ICRC has been present in Afghanistan since 1987. It has been visiting the US detention facility in Bagram since January 2002. As part of its humanitarian mandate, the ICRC helps individuals held in connection with the ongoing armed conflict to establish and maintain contact with their families. This is largely done through an exchange of " Red Cross messages " , written messages to relatives made otherwise unreachable by conflict.

For further information, please contact:
  Graziella Leite Piccolo, ICRC Kabul, tel +93700 282 719
  Carla Haddad, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26