Red Cross Tries To Reach POWs

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Officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross have asked Iraq for permission to visit coalition allied prisoners of war to make sure they are being treated humanely.

Red Cross spokesperson Amanda Williamson told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler these discussions are usually a delicate process. However, Williamson said teams are on standby in Iraq and neighboring regions, ready to visit POWs when it is allowed.

"We, of course, have to know where they are. We have a team ready on standby. That team will go to the place of detention," she said.

Williamson said the process from there on includes:

  • "Notify the prisoners or register them, I should say. This is to make sure they have a trace of who they are, where they are. It's important to have a physical trace of them.
  • "We begin the process of visiting them. We have to insist that every prisoner can speak privately to a delegate so that any concerns he has about his conditions and treatment can be relayed in a private setting.
  • "We relay that to the authorities in a confidential manner, if there are any concerns.
  • "And very importantly, every prisoner has the right to write a Red Cross message to his family. And that is an absolutely vital lifeline of contact. It's often the only contact that the prisoners have with the outside world and their families."

Much has been said about the prisoners and their treatment under the third Geneva Convention.

Williamson said the convention "specifically lays out a number of rules in which prisoners should be treated, the conditions in which they are kept, the way in which they are treated.

"All parties to a conflict have an obligation to respect that convention and also to allow the ICRC as an independent organization to visit the prisoners to ensure this is taking place," she said.