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Refuses to Deliver Prisoner’s Mail

Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2010) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that the Red Cross in Afghanistan (ICRC) has not intervened on behalf of a long-term employee who was arrested and imprisoned because he is Christian. This, despite that the Red Cross mandate includes “visiting prisoners” and “helping victims of conflict and internal violence, whoever they are.”

Sayed Mossa worked 15 years in ICRC’s orthopedic department in Kabul assisting amputees. In late May, footage of Muslim converts to Christianity being baptized was aired in Afghanistan. The broadcast triggered nationwide protests and a government-led crackdown against Christians. On May 31, being a Muslim convert to Christianity, Mossa was arrested by security officers working with the Ministry of Interior.

Aid workers in Kabul immediately contacted the Red Cross after hearing of the arrest. “The Protection office told us that Mossa will be visited like the others and that we must not interfere with their job. We are not his family and they will not tell us anything. We told them that he has been sexually abused and his condition has deteriorated badly, but nothing could move them,” said a friend of Mossa’s who inquired about his safety. When Mossa’s wife asked for help, the Red Cross paid her Mossa’s salary, but reportedly said they would not intervene to liberate her husband. It was two months before Mossa’s wife had heard where he was being held. She was not notified by the Red Cross, but by a released prisoner who had served time with Mossa.

In a final meeting with Reto Stocker, head of the Red Cross in Kabul, Mossa’s friends were again told that ICRC is neutral and would not intervene. They were also asked to not make the case public.

In another breach of the Red Cross’ mission, they refused to deliver hundreds of letters addressed to Mossa. Westerners organized the letter-writing campaign to both encourage the Christian and to publicly display the international community’s concern over his plight. “They won’t deliver the letters to Sayed. The Red Cross does not have the right to keep the letters from him. It’s their responsibility to ensure he receives letters written to him via the Red Cross address,” said an aid worker in Kabul who helped organize the campaign.

If the Red Cross refuses to do something they stand for, shouldn’t the world know about such a gross violation of their stated practices?” said another aid worker. “I mean, if donors support the Red Cross’ work because of what they declare they do, shouldn’t the Red Cross be reproved for their refusal to do (the work they are supposed to do)?

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Sayed Mossa has now been in prison for nearly six months without legal representation or equal protection. The Red Cross, his employer, did not visit Mossa in prison until two months after his arrest, and would not intervene because he was arrested on  religious grounds. Moreover, they have blatantly refused to deliver letters to Sayed which are rightfully his. We urge those concerned about the Red Cross’ behavior to call the Red Cross in their country and politely express their views.”

Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland +41 (22)734 60 01
United States & Canada +1 (202) 587 4600
United Kingdom (+44 207) 877 75 81
France (+33 1) 56 54 11 11

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]