Red Cross Finds Detainee Abuse in Guantánamo
Published: November 30, 2004
(Page 2 of 3)
officials are able to visit prisoners at Guantánamo under the kind of
arrangement the committee has made with governments for decades. In
exchange for exclusive access to the prison camp and meetings with
detainees, the committee has agreed to keep its findings confidential.
The findings are shared only with the government that is detaining
Beatricé Mégevand-Roggo, a senior Red Cross official,
said in an interview that she could not say anything about information
relayed to the United States government because "we do not comment in
any way on the substance of the reports we submit to the authorities."
Mégevand-Roggo, the committee's delegate-general for Europe and the
Americas, acknowledged that the issue of confidentiality was a chronic
and vexing one for the organization. "Many people do not understand why
we have these bilateral agreements about confidentiality," she said.
"People are led to believe that we are a fig leaf or worse, that we are
complicit with the detaining authorities."
She added, "It's a
daily dilemma for us to put in the balance the positive effects our
visits have for detainees against the confidentiality."
Notari, a veteran Red Cross official and spokeswoman, said that the
organization frequently complained to the Pentagon and other arms of
the American government when government officials cite the Red Cross
visits to suggest that there is no abuse at Guantánamo. Most statements
from the Pentagon in response to queries about mistreatment at
Guantánamo do, in fact, include mention of the visits.
recent interview with reporters, General Hood, the commander of the
detention and interrogation facility at Guantánamo, also cited the
committee's visits in response to questions about treatment of
detainees. "We take everything the Red Cross gives us and study it very
carefully to look for ways to do our job better," he said in his
Guantánamo headquarters, adding that he agrees "with some things and
"I'm satisfied that the detainees here have not been
abused, they've not been mistreated, they've not been tortured in any
way," he said.
Scott Horton, a New York lawyer, who is familiar
with some of the Red Cross's views, said the issue of medical ethics at
Guantánamo had produced "a tremendous controversy in the committee." He
said that some Red Cross officials believed it was important to
maintain confidentiality while others believed the United States
government was misrepresenting the inspections and using them to
Mr. Horton, who heads the human rights
committee of the Bar Association of the City of New York, said the Red
Cross committee was considering whether to bring more senior officials
to Washington and whether to make public its criticisms.
report from the June visit said the Red Cross team found a far greater
incidence of mental illness produced by stress than did American
medical authorities, much of it caused by prolonged solitary
confinement. It said the medical files of detainees were "literally
open" to interrogators.
The report said the Biscuit team met
regularly with the medical staff to discuss the medical situations of
detainees. At other times, interrogators sometimes went directly to
members of the medical staff to learn about detainees' conditions, it
The report said that such "apparent integration of access
to medical care within the system of coercion" meant that inmates were
not cooperating with doctors. Inmates learn from their interrogators
that they have knowledge of their medical histories and the result is
that the prisoners no longer trust the doctors.
Asked for a
response, the Pentagon issued a statement saying, "The allegation that
detainee medical files were used to harm detainees is false." The
statement said that the detainees were "enemy combatants who were
fighting against U.S. and coalition forces."
"It's important to
understand that when enemy combatants were first detained on the
battlefield, they did not have any medical records in their
possession," the statement continued. "The detainees had a wide range
of pre-existing health issues including battlefield injuries."