Red Cross Seeks to Visit Cuba on Heels of Guantanamo Bay Suicides

The international Red Cross said Monday it hoped to visit the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, this week because of the suicides of three inmates.

The International Committee of the Red Cross asked U.S. authorities if it could move forward with a planned visit after the organization learned of the suicides of two Saudi men and one Yemeni, spokesman Vincent Lusser said. The ICRC stressed that the visit was not an investigation.

"Hopefully it will take place as soon as possible," Lusser told The Associated Press. "If we feel we need to share concerns, we'll do so bilaterally with the U.S. authorities."

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The Red Cross, mandated by the Geneva Convention to visit prisoners of war, is the only outside agency that the United States has allowed to visit Guantanamo detainees and check on their conditions.

The ICRC visits Guantanamo about six times a year, and while a regular visit would have been coming up, no specific date had been scheduled before the suicides.

"We hope it can take place this week, but I don't yet have a day," Lusser said. "It was not scheduled. This is a special visit."

The neutral agency refuses to disclose specifics about its contacts with detainees, but does discuss problems with captors in hopes of improving the situation. It also regularly visits the U.S. prison at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The ICRC has been visiting Guantanamo since January 2002, where the U.S. is holding some 460 men accused of links to Afghanistan's Taliban or the Al Qaeda terror network. Most have been held for more than four years without charge.

The Red Cross team will visit and talk with detainees and the U.S. authorities, but "people shouldn't get the wrong idea that we'll make an inquiry," said the organization's chief spokeswoman, Antonella Notari. "We're going to do out usual ICRC work."