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Colombia: Liberation of a number of hostages held by the FARC

04-07-2008 Interview

Was the ICRC involved in the release of the four civilians and 11 servicemen? When the ICRC has been involved in the liberation of hostages in the past, how have you done it? Does the ICRC ever participate in military operations? What about the remaining hostages and detainees? The ICRC Head of Operations for Latin America and the Caribbean, Maria Dos Anjos Gussing, answers some questions.

   

   
 
Maria dos Anjos Gussing    
     Was the ICRC involved in the release of the four civilians and 11 servicemen?  

No, the ICRC was not involved in this operation, nor was it aware of plans to carry it out.

 When the ICRC has been involved in the liberation of hostages in the past, how have you done it?  

    

First, we always make sure that both sides agree with our role as a neutral humanitarian intermediary. Second, we obtain security guarantees from both parties to carry out the release operation. Third, the operation has to b e carried out according to our own procedures, including marking aircraft or vehicles with clearly visible red cross emblems, placing ICRC delegates in each of them and ensuring that the delegates are in charge of all decisions that might have to be taken during the operation. Working in this way has enabled us to facilitate the liberation of dozens of hostages and detainees in Colombia over the past few years.

 Does the ICRC ever participate in military operations?  

    

No, the ICRC does not participate in any military operation carried out by a party to an armed conflict because this would jeopardize our neutrality and independence. But this is not just about us because it would have a direct impact on our capacity to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people that we are currently assisting in Colombia.

 What about the remaining hostages and detainees?  

    

We hope that the remaining hostages will soon return to their families and homes. Provided all parties concerned agree, as was the case in the releases carried out in January and February 2008. We are ready to play our role as a neutral intermediary to facilitate further releases.