ICRC official estimates ‘a few dozen’ Saudi detainees in Iraq


In an interview with Arab News, Jean- Michel Monod, head of regional delegation, ICRC, said that even though the Red Cross was able to visit Saudis detained by the multinational forces, they were still prohibited from visiting Saudi captives being held by Iraqi authorities because negotiations have still not been finalized with the Iraqi government.

“It depends on who is arresting them to start with,” Monod said. “If they are arrested by the multinational force, they remain under its custody unless they are being tried or sentenced. If they are tried or sentenced they will then be transferred to Iraqi authorities.” He said the ICRC is in the final stages of negotiations with the Iraqi government to visit Saudis held by Iraqi authorities.

“We have not secured this agreement yet,” he said.

He also said that ICRC goes “between eight to ten times a year” to visit Saudi detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the group is allowed to meet with detainees without government minders leading them around the prison facility.

Asked about the conditions of Saudi detainees in Iraq, he said that ICRC was “fully aware” of the health conditions of those held captive since the visit is being carried out in the presence of an ICRC physician. The official, however, was reluctant to speak about individual cases, saying they were confidential.

Asked about the requests from Saudi families to visit their loved ones being held captive in Iraq, Monod ruled out the option, citing safety concerns.

“The question of family visits is a very difficult one, mainly because of the prevailing security situation in Iraq,” he said.

“We cannot simply say we want to facilitate this and then jeopardize these families because the roads are insecure… The only possible way for communication is through letters.” A reported 30 Iraqi Red Crescent workers were kidnapped in Baghdad last year.

The ICRC official admitted there was a delay in delivering letters as US authorities censor letters from Saudi detainees held in Iraq or Guantanamo Bay to their families in the Kingdom before handing them over to the ICRC.

According to several families of Saudi detainees who spoke to Arab News in the past, some of these letters arrive several months, even up to a year, after they were written.

“The detaining authority has the right in any jail in the world to look at what the detainee is writing home,” he continued.

“Once we have received the messages back from the censorship process, it is sent by express mail through our office in Kuwait,” he said.

He said the ICRC office in Kuwait then delivers the message to the Saudi Interior Ministry if the letters are from detainees in Guantanamo Bay. The ministry then contacts family members to receive the letters. Another procedure is taken if letters are from detainees in Iraq. ICRC delivers it to the Saudi Red Crescent, which then contacts the detainees’ families here to receive them.

Monod said more cooperation was needed between ICRC and the Saudi Red Crescent regarding relief operations abroad. “This is one of the points I raised with Prince Faisal ibn Abdullah (the president of the Saudi Red Crescent) during our meeting,” he said.

He noted that even though the Saudi Red Crescent was very active in operations in Kashmir, Indonesia, and the Darfur region of Sudan, none of these efforts were going through the ICRC.

“We do not have any Saudi delegation at present,” he said. “I would love to have people from the Saudi Red Crescent work with us.” He said the Saudi Red Crescent does not coordinate with ICRC regarding its relief operations in disaster-stricken countries.

“They do it directly through bilateral agreements with the host countries,” he said. “They could keep on doing their bilateral agreements but they could also coordinate with us. One does not necessarily mean the exclusion of the other.” Monod believed the Second Conference on Voluntary Work was an excellent opportunity to increase awareness among volunteers regarding the difficulties organizations went through abroad.

He ruled out any Saudis working with ICRC in relief operations abroad, saying that admittance to ICRC required a great deal of training.

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