Scandal Of 'Lost' Iraqi POWS - Only 2,000 Are Accounted For
Exclusive By Gary Jones
The Mirror - UK
The Red Cross yesterday accused Tony Blair and George Bush of breaching the Geneva Convention over the shabby treatment of Iraqi prisoners of war.
The humanitarian organisation said the true number of PoWs and their whereabouts was unknown, family visits have been denied and there was no system in place to monitor arrests or pass on details to the Red Cross.
A high-ranking official of the International Committee of the Red Cross said: "It is an obligation of the occupying power to notify us of any arrests but that's not happening. We are not receiving anything like full information on prisoners of war.
"There is no proper notification. No organisation. There is not the will to resolve this issue.
"Talks are now taking place at the highest level and if we don't make progress then we will be merciless in fighting our corner."
The shocking series of complaints made by the ICRC include:
ONLY 2,000 prisoners have so far been seen with many more unaccounted for.
RELATIVES are not allowed to visit them even if they are lucky enough to track them down.
SO slipshod has been the taking down of Arabic names of PoWs that they are meaningless, making it impossible for the Red Cross to track down their families
NO notification of arrests or where prisoners are held and no urgency in passing on information.
Labour MP and leading war critic Tam Dalyell called on the Prime Minister to urgently resolve the Red Cross grievances. He said: "He's got to sort this out - or release the PoWs. Not monitoring prisoners properly will cause huge resentment, especially if those being held are innocent.
"Adding to the perceived injustices of the Iraqi people will only create more bitterness and lead to more attacks on our forces.
"It is a catastrophic state of affairs."
The US has sidestepped some of its responsibilities under the 50-year-old Geneva Convention because President Bush stopped short of declaring the war over.
Under the Convention, once war is declared over the victorious army must release prisoners of war and halt operations targeting specific leaders. Human rights group Amnesty International has called on the US and British forces to give Iraqis detained since the beginning of the occupation the right to meet families and lawyers.
They are also calling for a judicial review of their detention.
UK Director Lesley Warner said: "The conditions of detention Iraqis are held under at the Camp Cropper Centre at Baghdad International Airport - now a US base - and at Abu Ghraib Prison may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, banned by international law." Detainees held in Baghdad have invariably reported that they suffered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment immediately after arrest.
They report being tightly bound with plastic handcuffs and sometimes denied water and access to a toilet in the first night of arrest.
Amnesty delegates saw numerous ex-detainees with wrists still scarred by the cuffs a month later. The Red Cross has a policy of not speaking publicly on the condition of prisoners.
The official who spoke to the Daily Mirror from Geneva said: "I shouldn't really be talking to you but the truth is we don't have a full picture of all the arrests and are not receiving all the information we need."
The Ministry of Defence said yesterday it worked closely with the Red Cross .
A spokesman said: "If the ICRC is raising this issue then answers will be given to the queries they have raised. We take our obligations under the Geneva Convention very seriously." http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/content_objectid=13144834