United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 124. ICRC Access to Persons Deprived of Their Liberty
The UK Military Manual (1958) states:
If no protection can be arranged, the Detaining Power must request, or shall accept, the offer of the services of a humanitarian organisation, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, to assume the humanitarian functions performed by the Protecting Power.
The manual further provides that representatives or delegates of the protecting powers or the ICRC shall be allowed to visit all prisoner of war camps. It points out: “Delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross enjoy the same privileges as those of Protecting Powers. Their appointment must be submitted to the Detaining Power for approval.”
The manual also states that “refusing prisoners of war access to the Protecting Power” is a war crime.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states:
The Protecting Power has various functions, notably to inspect PW camps and to deal with prisoners’ appeals for help in correcting any violations of the [Third Geneva] Convention by the Detaining Power. If no neutral Protecting Power has been appointed, its functions can be exercised by the ICRC or some other humanitarian organisation, subject to the consent of the parties to the conflict concerned.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states in its chapter on occupied territory:
Protected persons who are detained either because they are awaiting trial or as a result of a custodial sentence are entitled to have the following treatment:
h. detainees have the right to be visited by representatives of the protecting power and the ICRC.
In its discussion on judicial proceedings against prisoners of war, the manual states: “All prisoners of war sentenced to confinement have the rights to … make requests and complaints and deal with representatives of the protecting power or the ICRC.”
In its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual restates the provision of common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions according to which “an impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict”.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated:
On 19 January  the Iraqi Ambassador was asked whether the Iraqi Government was holding any British prisoners of war and reminded of Iraq’s obligations under the Third Geneva Convention to … arrange access by the ICRC. The Iraqi Ambassador gave an assurance that any British prisoners of war would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions … The British Government has made clear to the Iraqi Ambassador … [that] the British Government will be allowing full access by the ICRC both to Iraqi prisoners of war and to Iraqi citizens detained in the United Kingdom.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom reported:
[W]e have made the strongest representations again to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the representatives of which have been here seeking access to Iraqis who have been detained to ensure that they are receiving proper treatment. They were naturally granted access and we gave them every opportunity, to which they are entitled, to visit Iraqis to see whether they are receiving proper treatment. We have insisted that similar facilities must be available to representatives of the International Red Cross in Baghdad.
In 2004, in a reply to a question concerning detainees in Iraq, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs stated: “Coalition internment facilities are subject to regular inspection by the ICRC who are given full and unrestricted access to the internees.”
In 2004, in a reply to a question concerning detainees in Iraq, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated:
The prison conditions are in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. All internees are informed of the reason for their detention as stipulated by the fourth Geneva Convention. The ICRC has full, uninhibited access to all internees, and regularly reports to the military authorities. Our relationship with the ICRC is excellent.
In 2004, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia, the position of the UK Government on ICRC access to detention facilities in Afghanistan, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
We understand the ICRC has had access to Afghan government prisons and to US detention facilities in Bagram and Kandahar. The UK welcomes this access, and calls for the ICRC to be given full access to detention facilities throughout Afghanistan. ICRC reports on detainees are, however, strictly confidential between the ICRC and the country concerned.
In 2006, in a written answer to a question in the House of Commons concerning, inter alia, reports received from the International Committee of the Red Cross relating to Iraq, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
It is customary international practice for reports from the ICRC on security detention to remain confidential between the ICRC and the detaining power. We believe it is important to maintain that policy of confidentially so as to, inter alia, encourage the free and frank exchange of views about detention in all locations where ICRC carry out their valuable work.
In 2006, in its response to a report by the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence, the UK Government stated:
Under the terms of the MOU agreed between the UK and the Afghan Government, representatives of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and International Committee of the Red Cross will have full access to any persons transferred by the UK Armed Forces to Afghan authorities whilst such persons are in custody, as will the UK.
In 2006, in reply to a question in the House of Lords concerning “recent discussions … with the Government of Israel regarding their detention of over 7,000 Palestinians, many of them detained for lengthy periods without trial”, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated:
According to the IPS [Israel Prison Service], 6,223 security prisoners (those convicted by Israeli courts of terrorism-related crimes) were being held in IPS facilities in May 2006. A further 1,656 were being held awaiting trial. According to the IPS, security detainees are allowed family visits and are given medical and dental care. The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits IPS facilities and makes recommendations on conditions inside Israeli prisons to the Israeli authorities.
In 2007, in a written answer to a question in the House of Commons concerning detainees in Iraq, the UK Secretary of State for Defence stated: “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has regular and open access to our detention facility and all our internees.”
In 2007, in a joint letter from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, addressed to the Government of Afghanistan, regarding third-party access to transferred detainees, it was stated:
Access to Afghan facilities is to be permitted to organizations that are already afforded access under that government’s bilateral arrangements with the Government of Afghanistan including, where applicable, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC), relevant human rights institutions within the UN system, and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
In 2010, the UK Secretary of State for Defence set out the Ministry of Defence Strategic Detention Policy, stating:
1.2 This Policy Statement, which is to be observed whenever UK Armed Forces undertake detention in an operation theatre reflects the importance which I attach to ensuring the humane treatment of those it is necessary to detain in the course of our operations.
1.3 This is essential to ensure that we uphold our international obligations, to promote the legitimacy of an operation internationally and amongst the British public and to maximise support within the country where operations take place. …
2.1 This policy applies across the MOD and the Armed Forces and to all detention activities undertaken in military theatres of operation. It sets out the minimum standards which must be applied. All members of the Armed Forces, civilian employees and others (including contractors) who are involved with operational detention must comply with it. …
3.1 I require the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces to:
h. Where appropriate, provide information and access to facilities to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as fully and rapidly as practicable, and permit Detained Persons unfettered correspondence with the ICRC.
In 2010, in its closing submissions to the public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa and the treatment of those detained with him by UK armed forces in Iraq in 2003, the UK Ministry of Defence stated regarding common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions: “On its face this protection is restricted to armed conflicts not of an international character. However, it is understood to apply in all forms of armed conflict as part of customary international law to set out the irreducible minimum standard.”
In 2010, in a written answer to a question in the House of Commons, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs stated that “we continue to call for Hamas to unconditionally release [the Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit and … we consider it utterly unacceptable that he is denied International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access.”
In 2010, the UK Army Inspector examined and assessed the implementation of policy, training and conduct of detainee handling by UK armed forces on operations. The Army Inspector’s final report states with regard to UK-run detention facilities in Afghanistan: “Detention facilities are open to third party inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross.”