ZURICH - The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross started a visit to Syria on Saturday to discuss gaining access for the first time to its prisons -- where thousands of activists and other civilians arrested in pro-democracy protests are believed to be held.
ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger won an agreement in principle for the prison visits during a visit to Damascus in June as the unrest grew and the ICRC has said recently that the independent humanitarian agency was finalising details on its visits to detention centres.
"The ICRC president's visit will also offer an opportunity to discuss the impending start of ICRC visits to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior," the agency said in a statement. "The ICRC visits detainees in order to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive."
Kellenberger, in Damascus until Sunday, is due to hold talks with senior Syrian officials including President Bashar al-Assad and will also discuss enhanced access to areas of unrest.