Gitmo Focus Of Red Cross Talks

Security is tight - razor wire, guard towers and and searchlights control the perimeter while gunboats patrol the waters below.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is meeting with President Bush and senior members of the U.S. administration on Monday and Tuesday, the humanitarian organization said Sunday.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger will hold talks with Bush in Washington, as well as with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, the Swiss-based organization said.

The confidential talks are set to focus "on a range of humanitarian issues," the ICRC said, without elaborating. But it appeared likely Kellenberger would raise the organization's concerns over handling of terror suspects detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In November, the ICRC said U.S. officials had failed to address concerns about significant problems in the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo

Under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare, the neutral ICRC is empowered to visit prisoners. U.S. authorities have given its delegates regular access to Guantanamo.

The ICRC usually steers clear of public comment, maintaining that its quiet approach is the best protection for victims of war.

In November, however, it refused "to publicly confirm or deny" media reports that it had determined the U.S. military used psychological and physical coercion "tantamount to torture" at the prison. The allegation was contained in an ICRC report to U.S. officials after visits to Guantanamo, newspapers reported.

Organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International claim prisoners at the base have been mistreated. Released prisoners also have cited beatings and coerced confessions.

The Bush administration has rejected the accusations that detainees have in any way been abused and said the prisoners are treated humanely.

In an earlier sign of ICRC disquiet, Kellenberger met in Washington in January 2004 with then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as Rice and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Following their talks, the ICRC said in a statement it was unhappy that "certain aspects of the conditions and treatment in Guantanamo have not yet been adequately addressed."

In May last year, a leaked ICRC report on mistreatment of detainees held by the United States in Iraq fueled the scandal centering on Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The ICRC denied any involvement in the leak, saying the confidential report had been submitted to U.S. authorities.