ICRC, International Committee of the Red Cross
Guided by the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in particular humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, the ICRC has acted to improve the conditions of detention and treatment of people deprived of their liberty since 1870. Prompted by deep concern about their situation, we started visiting prisoners of war in the First World War. We did so on our own initiative, but with the consent of the warring parties. The ICRC’s objective was to encourage them to improve the prisoners’ living conditions and to enable the prisoners to tell their families how they were. Visiting prisoners and sending personal information were later developed and codified in international humanitarian law in the 1929 and 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols. The ICRC’s detention-related activities have progressively evolved from a monitoring role during armed conflicts to a broader range of activities that seek to help individuals deprived of their liberty in a variety of situations and places of detention.