Red Cross says some detainees may be hidden

GENEVA – The international Red Cross said Tuesday it suspects the United States is hiding detainees in lockups across the globe, though the agency has been granted access to thousands of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere.

Terror suspects reported by the FBI as captured have never turned up in detention centers, and the United States has failed to reply to agency demands for a list of everyone it’s holding, said Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“These people are, as far as we can tell, detained in locations that are undisclosed not only to us but also to the rest of the world,” Notari said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday he was “looking further into” the Red Cross concerns and added: “We do work closely with the Red Cross on all detainee issues.”

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said, “The International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all Defense Department detention operations.”

However, in his report into allegations of abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba found that military police there had “routinely held persons brought to them by other government agencies without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention.”

On at least one occasion, they moved these “ghost detainees” around the prison to hide them from a visiting Red Cross delegation, he added. He described the actions as “deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law.”

The United States says it is cooperating with the agency, and has allowed Red Cross delegates access to thousands of prisoners in Afghanistan, at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq, where agency delegates have visited Saddam Hussein.

ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger made the request in January on a visit to Washington during which he met with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

“So far we haven’t had a satisfactory reply,” Notari said.

Notari said she had read media reports that some people are being held at Diego Garcia, a British-held island in the Indian Ocean that the United States uses as a strategic military base, but the Red Cross has not been notified of any prisoners there.

ICRC delegates visited nearly 500,000 detainees in around 80 countries last year, including almost 11,000 in Iraq.

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