Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

ICRC visits prisoners held by Afghan Taliban

ICRC official in Afghanistan
The ICRC and its partners play a prominent role in Afghanistan

Representatives from the International Red Cross (ICRC) have paid their first visit to prisoners held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, officials say.

The organisation said its officials twice visited three members of the Afghan security forces who are being held in Badghis province.

The ICRC regularly visits prisoners of war around the world to check on their conditions and treatment.

It also helps prisoners to keep in touch with their families.

The agency - which is neutral - does not publish the findings of its visits.

But it does issue confidential recommendations to the detaining authorities or groups.

'Same protection'

"We welcome this breakthrough," said Reto Stocker, ICRC chief in Kabul.

"We plan to conduct and repeat visits in other regions and hope to visit people held by other armed opposition groups, with the aim of ensuring that everyone detained in relation to the armed conflict is treated humanely."

The ICRC said that it had visited 136 places of detention in Afghanistan and has registered more than 16,000 people since the beginning of the current conflict in 2001 when US-led forces removed the Taliban from power.

"International humanitarian law grants the same protection to everyone held in connection with the armed conflict, whether the detaining party is the international or Afghan security forces or the armed opposition," said Mr Stocker.

The ICRC has been active in Afghanistan since 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded the country.

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