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In time of war or internal violence, prisoners and detainees must be treated humanely — it is both the mark and the duty of every civilized society, so the Geneva Conventions remind us. Sadly, we know that in practice it is too often not the case. The ICRC’s detention-related work is quite considerable: last year its delegates visited over 500,000 prisoners of war and detainees in nearly 80 countries. What is less well known is how the ICRC operates when inside prisons and what impact these visits have, especially when it comes to torture and disappearances. And what happens when abuses are detected? These questions are at the heart of this cover story.

This issue also attests to the Movement’s vitality in the field as seen through the action of National Societies in contexts as varied as Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire and Papua New Guinea, each situation requiring original and targeted responses while staying true to a set of common principles. At the international level, Movement representatives are focusing more than ever on the quest for greater coherence in operational approaches and responses as shown by the deliberations of the statutory meeting in Seoul. Not forgetting, of course, the emergence of a new emblem — the red crystal — voted for by states at the Diplomatic Conference in Geneva in December 2005, a significant milestone to which we will return in future issues of Red Cross Red Crescent.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor

Rosemarie North
International Federation editor

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