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Colombia: People held by armed groups

10-07-2013 Feature

By acting as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC helps to ascertain the fate and situation of people being held by armed groups, give them news about their loved ones and secure their release.

Villavicencio, 2 April 2012. The arrival of 10 members of the police and armed forces who had been held by the FARC-EP. In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitated their release. 

Villavicencio, 2 April 2012. The arrival of 10 members of the police and armed forces who had been held by the FARC-EP. In its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitated their release.
© CICR / B. Heger

People being held by armed groups face many difficulties, including the loss of their liberty, separation from their families and lack of access to health care and other basic services.

The ICRC concerns itself with the situation of people held by armed groups, whether they are civilians or members of the police and armed forces. Through its ongoing confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict, the ICRC tries to find out about the conditions they are being held in and their health status and delivers Red Cross messages to them with news from their loved ones.

Wherever possible, the ICRC takes advantage of its recognition as a neutral organization to facilitate the release of people being held by armed groups. It acts as a neutral intermediary between the parties, helps to establish safe conditions for humanitarian action to go ahead and facilitates the coordination of the logistical and medical aspects of release operations.

In many cases, the ICRC also provides specialized support for the families of people who are to be released. An ICRC psychologist visits the person’s relatives to prepare them for the reunion and requests important material and information to facilitate the return. In cases in which the people being released have not seen their families for many years, this can include current photos of their loved ones so that they will recognize them when they see them.

 

The ICRC’s humanitarian response

In 2012 the ICRC facilitated the release of 36 people held by armed groups, including 25 civilians and 11 members of the police and armed forces.

One such operation took place in April in Guaviare department, when 10 members of the police and military forces were handed over to a humanitarian team formed by ICRC delegates and members of the organization Colombians For Peace, with logistical support from the Brazilian Army, which provided helicopters and crews.

The ICRC was also involved in two separate operations to free 13 oil company employees being held by the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Arauca. Both operations were carried out using ICRC vehicles and with support from the Catholic Church and the Ombudsman’s Office.

Two commercial airline crew members being held by FARC-EP were also handed over to ICRC delegates in Argelia, in southern Cauca.

Four Chinese citizens were released to ICRC delegates in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguán in Caquetá. In the same department, in the municipality of La Montañita, French journalist Roméo Langlois was handed over to a humanitarian team formed by members of the ICRC and Colombians For Peace.

“I have closed the door on the past and am looking to the future”

“I was deprived of my liberty for 12 years and 9 months. I was a sub-inspector in the police and third in command in the counter-guerrilla team in Puerto Rico, Meta.I was 36 at the time and had a wife and three children... Read more

 

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