The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) slammed a United States Senate report charging that the organization has recently worked against United States efforts and interests, and seeks to boost protection of terrorists.
A report by Senators, signed by Republicans, was published 13 June 2005 titled: Are U.S. Interests Disserved by the International Committee of the Red Cross?
The ICRC claims the Senate aims to discredit the organization by spreading propaganda. Senators said the ICRC must be held accountable for working against the United States' interests and for furthering the protection of terrorist organizations.
Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president, charged back that "The report's purpose appears to be to discredit the ICRC by putting forward false allegations and unsubstantiated accusations."
Traditionally, the ICRC is one of many guardians of the Geneva Conventions, and is usually given access to war-torn areas as a neutral humanitarian organization. Red Cross staff has been granted visitation rights to prisoners held by the United States military in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Following a much publicized report in Newsweek magazine, charging that military personnel at Guantanamo Bay trashed Muslim Holy Books to embarrass prisoners, Newsweek promptly called the story unsubstantiated and pulled the story; however, the Red Cross came forward stating the story was true. Newsweek refused to comment on the story to Think & Ask, and declined to state whether pressure from the White House or from the Internal Revenue Service audit bureau oiled their reason to pull the story.
"The U.S. government and the ICRC have good and trustful relations," said Kellenberger. And while the ICRC is not "above criticism," it is open to constructive dialogue with those who have different opinions, he said. "Dialogue does not appear to be the primary objective of the authors."
The Red Cross has grown more outspoken on prisoner abuse in both Iraq and in Cuba, which appears to have given cause for creating the Senate report. Senators claim that the ICRC set out to "inaccurately and unfairly accuse the U.S. of not adhering to the Geneva Conventions." And it says a fight between ICRC staff and military soldiers resulted in one staff member calling the military Nazis. But Kellenberger said the exchange was not true.
"Contrary to what is stated in the document, the ICRC has never compared US soldiers to the Nazis and the ICRC has never leaked to the public or the media any of the confidential reports submitted to the US authorities," he told reporters.
Senators charge the Red Cross with attempting to expand international law in a way to protect terrorists and Iraq freedom fighters with equal protection as military personnel.
"To be neutral doesn't mean putting all the actors of a conflict on the same level," Kellenberger said. "You are not taking sides between parties to a conflict because you may lose access to detainees if one of the parties feels that you are not neutral."
The report calls on officials and the White House to re-examine funding models for the ICRC and pull it all together if the Red Cross is not furthering the best interests of the United States. Currently the largest block of ICRC funds come from the United States.
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