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The ICRC prepared to resume visits to detainees in Myanmar

01-11-2007 Statement

The ICRC, in line with its strictly humanitarian mandate, has officially asked the government of Myanmar for access to all persons in detention and, in particular, those arrested in relation with the events of August and September. Statement by Pierre Krähenbühl, ICRC director of operations.

Although the government has announced the release of hundreds of detainees over the past few weeks, the fate and whereabouts of those still detained in relation with the recent events remain unclear. This situation is a great source of anxiety for many families, dozens of whom have approached the ICRC. In recent weeks, the ICRC has been looking at how to help them restore contact with their relatives.

The ICRC believes that regular visits to places of detention by its delegates could help to address the concerns of families, and to re-establish contact between them and those still in custody. A further aim of such visits is to ensure, by means of constructive and confidential dialogue between the ICRC and the authorities, that the detainees'psychological and physical well-being is respected, as required by national and international law.

To ensure that this humanitarian objective is met, the ICRC always conducts its visits in accordance with a set of standard practices. These include the ICRC speaking in private with the detainees, and repeating its visits, in order to follow up on its recommendations. The ICRC also requires that authorities be ready to engage in bilateral dialogue on its findings and recommendations, which are shared with the authorities in confidence. The aim is that corrective measures be taken if necessary.

From 1999 until 2005, the ICRC regularly visited all prisons and labour camps that came under the responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in all States and Divisions of the country. It conducted those visits in accordance with the standard procedure outlined above. This continuous monitoring of the conditions of detentio n and treatment, which included following up on the cases of hundreds of particularly vulnerable detainees, together with the ICRC’s dialogue with the government of Myanmar, led to noticeable improvements in conditions of detention.


The ICRC remains concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country, and especially about the situation of detainees and that of civilians living in conflict-affected areas, as the organization stated publicly on 29 June . It is pursuing its efforts to start discussions with the government, with a view to responding to the humanitarian needs in the country. The ICRC is ready to resume all its activities at very short notice, provided it is given the necessary guarantees that it will be able to act as a neutral and independent humanitarian organization.