On a Mission for the Red Cross

imageThere has been a lot of media coverage this week about an allegedly leaked report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on conditions for prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in 2006.

Some who have read the story have wondered about the role the American Red Cross in this matter. The short answer: none.

Many people do not realize that the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross are completely separate organizations that each serve a humanitarian purpose but differ in mission.

Both organizations are guided by the Fundamental Principals of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement — including impartiality, neutrality and independence.

But the missions are different:

The American Red Cross is committed to helping Americans prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies, facilitates training classes on things such as CPR and first aid, collects and processes more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and provides support to military personnel and their families.

The ICRC has an exclusive humanitarian mission to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war, conflict and internal violence from all nations and to provide them with assistance. Its mission is set forth by the Geneva Convention, which has been signed by virtually every government in the world, including the U.S. As part of this mission, the International Committee of the Red Cross visits people detained in relation to conflict around the world. It has visited American service members held in conflict-including in the first Gulf War.

It’s important to know that the ICRC does not release, leak or comment publicly on its reports or the discussions it has with governments. The ICRC has said it regrets that information from a confidential report has been made public in this matter, and is not commenting on the matter.

We know that all the jargon can be a little confusing, but hope this post helps to clarify our roles.


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