International Committee of the Red Cross
 
 
International Committee of the Red Cross

Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada

  
In This Issue:
Connecting Internees with their Families: ICRC Uses Videoconference Technology in Guantanamo
Interview with Outgoing ICRC Washington Spokesperson Bernard Barrett
Bringing Hope to Cities: Addressing Urbanization on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2010
ICRC Speaks at American Red Cross Symposium in California
There's an App for That (Part 2)
 
 
The latest ICRC news from around the globe
 
Bolivia 
 
 
South Africa
 
 
Yemen
 
 
Our World At War: On the Move Out West
DRC - Ron Haviv, Our World at War
Our World At War is on display at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, through June 2. It is sponsored by the American Red Cross Monterey Bay Area Chapter. Exhibit hours are 10 am to 5 pm 7 days a week. The Center is located at One Main Street in Salinas, CA.

 

From June 26 through August 15, the show will be on display at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington, in cooperation with the American Red Cross Serving King and Kitsap Counties.

 

Stay tuned for more dates and locations throughout the spring and summer.

 

Back by Popular Demand: Customary International Humanitarian Law - Now Available in Electronic Form!
Customary International Humanitarian Law Study
Download Volume Two: Practice 
 
Given that this out-of-print publication is one of the most frequently requested resources on international humanitarian law, we've left the links to download it in the newsletter for a second month.
 
This publication is the result of a major international study into current state practice in international humanitarian law in order to identify customary law in this area. Presented in two volumes, it analyzes the customary rules of IHL and contains a detailed summary of relevant state practice throughout the world. 
 
An update of Volume II is underway and will be launched online this summer as an ICRC database. Stay tuned for the annoucement.
Upcoming News & Events
A painting of the Battle of Solferino
Check our website for the latest news, as ICRC commemorates the upcoming dates with special features, photos, and more:

May 18: Formal launch of 2009 Annual Report

May 19: 2009 Annual
Report available to the public via website
 
June 24
: Anniversary of the Battle of Solferino
 
June 28 - July 8: 28th course on International Humanitarian Law in
Warsaw, Poland
 
July 12-30: HELP Course at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD
 
July 19 - August 6: HELP Course at Center of Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance in Honolulu, HI
 
August 12: 61st Anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 
 
 

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News and Notes
May 2010 
 
Greetings!

This month the ICRC Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada says farewell to its spokesperson Bernard Barrett who reflects on his time in Washington in the interview below. In turn, the delegation welcomes back Simon Schorno, our incoming spokesperson, who occupied the same post from 2005 to 2008. 
 
Next, we look at how the ICRC is using videoconferencing to connect internees held in the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay with their families. 
 
Read on for a short summary of the humanitarian challenges related to urbanization in a statement issued to mark this year's World Red Cross Red Crescent Day on May 8. We then take a brief look at the ICRC's participation at a recent American Red Cross symposium on forced migration and displacement organized in northern California.
 
Lastly, the new and improved, free ICRC application for iPhone is available now. It is just another way to keep up to date on all the latest ICRC news. 
 
We would like to thank all of our readers for sending in their questions about the ICRC and IHL. In the upcoming issues, stay tuned for articles on employment opportunities, diversity, and further discussion of the role of civilians directly participating in armed conflict. Please keep in touch! We love hearing from you!  
 
Kind regards,
The ICRC Washington Delegation
 
 
Connecting Internees with their Families: ICRC Uses Videoconference Technology in Guantanamo
 
A Red Cross message is delivered to the family a Guantanamo detainee.Worldwide, the ICRC visits approximately 500,000 detainees every year to assess how detention conditions, treatment, and judicial guarantees match relevant international standards. The ICRC also works to restore and maintain contact among separated family members through letters, phone calls, and other means, including family visits.
 
As part of this global effort, since January 2002, the ICRC has been regularly visiting persons detained in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. In April 2008, the ICRC facilitated the establishment of a telephone call system enabling Guantanamo internees to speak to their families on a regular basis. Last fall, in September 2009, the ICRC and U.S. Government launched a program to connect internees with their family members through the use of videoconferencing technology.
 
For one hour at a time, the detainees and their loved ones are able to see one another on a computer monitor and share personal and family news. The calls are monitored by the authorities, and while not a replacement for face-to-face contact, the video link offers detainees and their families an improved way of communicating.
 
One family member who participated in the program shared, "I hadn't seen my father since I was 14. I saw his face for the first time in six years through the videoconference. While it cannot bridge the unbridgeable distance of thousands of miles between my father and our family, the video calls make the separation more bearable." On another occasion, the teenage daughter of a detainee played a song on the guitar for her father whom she had not seen since she was a child. 
 
Videoconference in use in AfghanistanTo date, the ICRC has facilitated 73 videoconferences and more than 800 telephone calls between persons in the Guantanamo detention facility with family member in 14 countries. A similar program has served to connect detainees held in the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan with their families since May 2008.
 
Every year, the ICRC and the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies help hundreds of thousands of people connect with their families and clarify the fate of missing relatives.
 

Interview with Outgoing ICRC Washington Spokesperson Bernard Barrett
 
ICRC Washington Spokesperson Bernard BarrettThis month ICRC Washington says farewell to Bernard Barrett. Bernard has served as the ICRC spokesperson in Washington since May 2008. His previous ICRC assignments as media representative include Afghanistan, Haiti, Israel, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka. He was also seconded by the Canadian Red Cross to work with the American Red Cross in New York City in September 2001. Previously, Bernard worked as a reporter, producer, and executive producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  
What is it like to be a spokesperson for the ICRC?
 
It's quite interesting for a couple of reasons. The work can be delicate because the ICRC deals with sensitive issues, which we cannot discuss publicly. At the same time, the institution has a high level of credibility, particularly with the media. We are known for being rather conservative not only about what we will talk about but also in our characterization of crises. We do not inflate numbers affected or killed or over-dramatize situations, and we don't get involved in what I call the "humanitarian auction" to grab headlines. I think media outlets often come to us when they are looking for an accurate reading of a situation, and the ICRC is well respected in that sense. Since we don't speak out a lot, when we do, people tend to take notice. As a former journalist, I've always felt comfortable with this approach because we are not exaggerating or misleading people. The work is challenging but also very rewarding.
 
What are some of the particularities of being an ICRC spokesperson in Washington?
 
There is a huge number and diversity of media in the U.S. With some reporters, I have to be very careful to make sure they understand what the ICRC is and how we are different, say, from the American Red Cross, and what our mandate is and what do we do and what don't we do. On the other hand, some of the best and most informed journalists that I've ever worked with in my career are based in the U.S. Another interesting aspect is that most of our operations deal with what we call "protection work," work we do not discuss publicly. Yet, this is what the reporters want to talk to us most about. One has to be very delicate with respect to relationship management.
 
Another thing that has impressed me about Washington is the quality of people I've worked with here in the ICRC delegation and also with the American Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross in dealing with the media in both countries. 
 
How has being a reporter previously helped you in your role?
 
My background gives me an understanding of what reporters want, what they need, what are legitimate requests, and how a story may be developed. It also means that I have developed my writing and speaking skills, and most importantly, an ability to synthesize materials and to explain them in a way so they are understandable even to people not closely associated with the institution and its work. 
 

 
Bringing Hope to Cities: Addressing Urbanization on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day 2010
 
World Red Cross Red Crescent Day
On the occasion of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day, the presidents of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a joint statement to draw attention to the challenges of urbanization. In particular, urbanization brings with it a growing sense of vulnerability among many city dwellers faced with insecurity, exposure to hazards, and insufficient access to basic services such as water, food, and health care. As a result, urbanization is making humanitarian work even more complex, sometimes more critical and more necessary than ever.
 
"Many cities are directly affected by armed conflicts and other situations of violence," said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the ICRC. "Think of Mogadishu, Baghdad, or Kabul -- but also Rio de Janeiro or Nairobi -- as examples of situations that cause severe human suffering. Even in some cities not experiencing war, violence has reached unprecedented proportions. I would not be surprised if our humanitarian work will in future increasingly happen in cities affected by various types of violence other than armed conflict."
 
To read the full statement and news release, please click here and here.

 
ICRC Speaks at American Red Cross Symposium on Forced Migration, Refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons
 
Photo courtesy of Ron SchnurFrom April 22 to 24, the American Red Cross chapters of Monterey Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and Santa Cruz County organized a symposium on forced migration, refugees, and internally displaced persons in Northern California. Alongside an esteemed group of panelists, the ICRC spoke at the Monterey Institute of International Studies; Santa Clara University School of Law; University of California, Santa Cruz; and Stanford University Law School. The ICRC presentation emphasized the need for better respect for international humanitarian law as a means to prevent displacement and the need for a holistic approach to displacement, which takes into account the specifics of a given situation and the voice of the people who are negatively affected. 

 
There's an App for That (Part 2) 
iPhone Screenshot: ICRC News 
Back in August 2009, we shared how to find free smart phone applications featuring the Geneva Conventions.
 
We would now like to announce that the ICRC has an iPhone/iPod application of its own! 
 
Stay abreast of the latest news while on the go and download it today from iTunes or your App Store. Just search for "Red Cross" and voilą!