Red Cross told U.S. of disrespect of Quran at Guantanamo

By SAM CAGE | Associated Press
May 19, 2005

GENEVA - The international Red Cross told U.S.
authorities about American personnel at the Guantanamo
Bay detention center showing disrespect to Islam's
holy book, the Quran, a spokesman said Thursday.

Delegates from the International Committee of the Red
Cross informed the relevant U.S. authorities, who took
action to stop the abuse, said spokesman Simon
Schorno, who declined to specify the nature of the

"We're basically referring in general terms to
disrespect of the Quran, and that's where we leave
it," Schorno told The Associated Press. "We believe
that since, U.S. authorities have taken the corrective
measures that we required in our interventions."

The neutral, Geneva-based ICRC confidentially reported
the incidents to U.S. authorities in 2002 and 2003,
and has since been able to verify that any disrespect
of the Quran has been stopped.

"That's our understanding based on the information
that we collected in Guantanamo in subsequent visits,"
Schorno said by telephone from Washington, D.C. "We
brought it to their attention and we believe there was
a reaction, and that's really the objective of our
reporting and interaction with the authorities."

The ICRC usually steers clear of public comment,
maintaining that its quiet approach is the best
protection for victims of war.

Red Cross delegates did not personally witness any
instances of disrespect toward the Quran, but received
an unspecified number of reports from detainees that
this had occurred, Schorno said.

About 15 people died in clashes with Afghan security
forces in demonstrations around Afghanistan last week,
after Newsweek reported that U.S. interrogators had
desecrated the Quran at the prison camp for terrorist
suspects at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay,

The magazine at first apologized for its story and
then retracted it under heavy pressure from the U.S.
administration. The White House blamed the magazine's
account for triggering the anti-American protests in

An ICRC delegation is currently visiting Guantanamo
and will be there until the middle of June, Schorno

The ICRC has been visiting Guantanamo regularly since
the arrival in January 2002 of the first of around 600
detainees. Most were captured in the war that ousted
Afghanistan's Taliban in late 2001, but some also are
suspected of links to the al-Qaida terrorist network. 


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