ICRC confirms staffer met US diplomat after Kashmir leak

17th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The International Committee of the Red Cross Friday confirmed that one of its staff met a US official in 2005 after leaked US diplomatic cables showed it had given evidence of torture by Indian forces in Kashmir.

ICRC spokesman Christian Cardon did not directly confirm the subject of the meeting and discussion, or its location.

"A delegate met a US official on April 1, 2005," he told AFP after whistleblower website Wikileaks published the correspondence between US officials.

"Publicly the International Committee of the Red Cross does not wish to comment on communication that took place between a US diplomat and his superior in Washington," Cardon said.

In a confidential briefing, the ICRC told the diplomats of 177 visits it had made to detention centres in Indian Kashmir that detailed "stable trend lines" of prisoner abuse, according to the cables.

The cables written by a US diplomat said the ICRC had been "forced to conclude that the (Indian government) condones torture."

Techniques included electric shock treatment, sexual and water torture and nearly 300 cases of "roller" abuse in which a round metal object is placed on the thighs of a sitting detainee and then sat on by guards to crush the muscles.

The ICRC said it had been "forced to conclude that the (Indian government) condones torture," the cables said.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused India of abuses in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir, where it has been fighting an armed separatist insurgency for more than 20 years.

The ICRC, which specialises in relief and protection work in conflict areas, carries out visits to detainees in 74 countries to check on their conditions under an international mandate.

It often gains access on the basis of its reputation for neutrality and standing pledge of confidentiality in raising problems with the detaining authority or government.

Cardon admitted after the Wikileaks publication that "this kind of information does not ease our work."

Cardon underlined that the ICRC maintained confidential and bilateral dialogue on the issue with the detaining authority," in this case Indian authorities.

"In some instances, and that's maybe the less known side of our practice, we may call on a third party who could play a certain role in addressing these humanitarian problems," he explained, "typically in this case."

The ICRC spokesman indicated that dialogue was more difficult with Indian authorities at the time, but that it had "clearly improved" since then.

© 2010 AFP

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