GENEVA – The international Red Cross said Tuesday that U.S. officials have failed to address concerns about significant problems in the treatment of terror suspects detained at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay (search), Cuba.
But the neutral agency, which is the only independent monitor allowed to visit the facility, refused "to publicly confirm or deny" whether details in a New York Times article Tuesday were from its reports to U.S. officials about its findings during its Guantanamo visits.
However, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington confirmed Monday that Red Cross officials have "made their view known" that the indefinite detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amounts to torture.
Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said, "It's their point of view," but it is not shared by the Bush administration.
Di Rita said he was unaware of any Red Cross accusations that specific interrogation techniques or treatment of detainees amount to torture.
The Times article said the International Committee of the Red Cross (search) determined that the U.S. military used psychological and physical coercion "tantamount to torture."
It said ICRC delegates found during a June visit to Guantanamo that U.S. authorities had devised and refined a system to break the will of the prisoners, using humiliation, solitary confinement, temperature extremes and force positions.
Human rights campaigners told The Associated Press they were not surprised by the allegations after the leaking of a ICRC report in May describing mistreatment of U.S. prisoners in Iraq.
The ICRC also found that some doctors were telling interrogators about prisoners' weaknesses in "a flagrant violation of medical ethics."
"We have said, including publicly, that there are significant problems regarding the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo that still have not been addressed by U.S. authorities," chief ICRC spokeswoman Antonella Notari told the AP.
"We continue our discussions with the U.S. authorities in this regard."
She added, however, that the agency was sticking to its policy of discussing the details of its findings with U.S. officials because it found the confidential approach achieved the best results.
An agency statement Tuesday said its policy of confidentiality "has made it possible for the ICRC to have repeated and regular access to those held at Guantanamo Bay and to speak with them in private."
Notari said it was possible that ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger would go to Washington soon to meet with administration officials, but no dates had been set.
The ICRC said it had been visiting Guantanamo regularly since early 2002.
"The ICRC uses its exchanges with governments to make clear its concerns and recommendations regarding the situation in places of detention and to demand changes when necessary," the agency added. "Guantanamo Bay is no exception."
Notari told the AP the ICRC saw the recent creation of the Office of Detainee Affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense as a "useful step." The office has provided a forum in which issues relating to Guantanamo Bay can be discussed "in a more timely and systematic manner."
Di Rita noted that the Bush administration believes it has the legal right to detain terror suspects until the end of the war on terrorism because they are unlawful combatants not subject to the protections of the Geneva conventions.