[JURIST] The US military [official website] will now be notifying the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] of the identities of suspected terrorist militants held in special operations camps in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a New York Times report [text]. In a reversal of past Pentagon policy, the ICRC will now have the ability to obtain information about and track detainees held at these facilities. While detainee identities will be shared under the new policy, the ICRC will still be denied access to the camps. Under this new policy, the US military must notify the ICRC of the detainees' names and identification numbers within two weeks of the detention. The military previously refused the names of detainees to the ICRC due to concerns of jeopardizing counterterrorism efforts. The policy shift took effect early this month.
The ICRC, which is formally entrusted under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols [materials] with protecting the victims of armed conflict and with promoting international humanitarian law in violent situations, has long lobbied the US military for access to these camps and information on the detainees. The policy shift comes as the Obama administration has vowed to change the way in which suspected terrorist detainees are interrogated and detained. Shortly after taking office in January, Obama ordered the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, expressly banned the use of torture in interrogations [JURIST reports], and directed the immediate shutdown of secret CIA detention facilities. In 2007, the ICRC reported that detainees held in secret CIA prisons throughout the globe were subject to abuse and sleep deprivation [JURIST report]. The ICRC has also accused Guantanamo doctors of violating medical ethics codes [JURIST report].