Members of the Red Cross visit Saddam


Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 7

Two staff members of the international Red Cross have visited former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in US custody in Iraq, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.

The delegates, one of whom was a doctor, saw Saddam at an undisclosed location in Iraq earlier Saturday, said Nada Doumani, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

"We want to see whether he is getting enough food and water and also to check his health condition and to give him the possibility to write a message to his family, which he did," Doumani said, speaking from Amman, Jordan.

The ICRC is mandated to carry out visits to detainees under the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare, but it will not speak out publicly on the conditions it finds although it will discuss its findings with the coalition forces holding Saddam.

Douumani said the ICRC would carry out a second visit to Saddam in due course, but she could not say when that would be.

"We will repeat our visits as long as the person is in detention," she said.

She declined to say how long Saturday's visit had been but said it was "long enough to get answers to the important questions."

Saddam's letter to his family is subject to censorship by the coalition forces before it is delivered. The Geneva Conventions rules require that it should be of a "uniquely family nature."

The US Defense Department determined last month that Saddam is entitled to the designation of "prisoner of war" because of his status as former commander in chief of Iraq's military. POW status under the Geneva Conventions grants Saddam certain rights, including ICRC visits and freedom from coercion of any kind during interrogations.