Red Cross Meets With 14 Moved to Guantanamo Bay

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006

An International Committee of the Red Cross delegation that visited the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, met with the 14 detainees who had been held for years in secret CIA custody, the first time the alleged high-value terrorism suspects had contact with the outside world since their initial confinement.

The U.S. military and ICRC officials confirmed yesterday that Red Cross representatives spent time with each of the 14 men in the weeks after they were transferred to Guantanamo, a series of standard meetings during which the detainees were officially registered with the international humanitarian organization and had an opportunity to meet with a doctor.

Among the men is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Red Cross officials do not comment on the details of such meetings or their recommendations to government captors, citing confidentiality agreements that allow them unfettered access. They also declined to comment on the conditions the detainees faced while in secret U.S. custody and on their mental and physical well-being.

Simon Schorno, an ICRC spokesman in Washington, said yesterday that representatives met with the 14 men who had been in CIA custody and shared their observations with Guantanamo authorities.

"We were able to work according to our standard modalities," Schorno said.

During a visit that began on Sept. 25 and ends today, the Red Cross met with a total of 454 detainees -- believed to be the facility's entire detainee population -- as part of a regular series of visits aimed at assessing their treatment and facilitating contact with their families through official letters.

Cmdr. Robert Durand, a Guantanamo spokesman, said yesterday that the ICRC had the opportunity to meet with all detainees and specifically cited the humane treatment afforded both the general detainee population and the 14 high-value detainees who recently arrived. In an e-mail statement, Durand said they receive "adequate food, shelter and clothing," may worship and have access to a Koran, and are given exercise and reading opportunities.

Also yesterday, Pentagon officials announced that they had transferred 17 detainees out of Guantanamo Bay as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the facility's population and to share the detention burden with allies. Sixteen men were released to Afghanistan and one was released to Morocco, bringing the total number of detainees held at Guantanamo to approximately 440. The U.S. military has deemed an additional 110 detainees eligible for release or transfer.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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