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Honduras: "Red Cross must be able to work in safety"

28-09-2009 Interview

The ICRC and the Honduran Red Cross are working together to help people affected by the recent clashes between demonstrators and the security forces. Christoph Kleber, deputy head of the ICRC's regional delegation for Central America, describes Red Cross action on the ground in Tegucigalpa.

  ©ICRC    
 
  Christoph Kleber    

   You have been in Tegucigalpa since 23 September, but you have been visiting the Honduran capital regularly since June. How do you see the current situation there?  

From what I have seen, things appear to have calmed down, but people are tense. In the last few days, there have been clashes between demonstrators and the security forces. The Honduran Red Cross has administered first aid to over one hundred people suffering from respiratory problems, panic attacks, high blood pressure, bruising and broken bones. Two people were also reportedly killed in connection with these events.

Honduran Red Cross first-aid teams are on standby around the clock. Approximately 200 volunteers from branches across the country are ready to respond to call-outs, 60 of them in Tegucigalpa. Many have not returned home or seen their families for several days.

 Does the ICRC have access to people held in connection with the events in Tegucigalpa?  

   

  © Reuters/Henry Romero  
 
Tegucigalpa. Honduran Red Cross volunteers attend to the injured.    

    Yes, we have a comprehensive agreement with the authorities which allows us to visit people deprived of their freedom in Honduras. Today we were able to visit people held in connection with the recent clashes in Tegucigalpa. We talked to detainees in private to ascertain whether their detention conditions meet international standards.

We also offered them assistance in maintaining contact with their families if necessary, and we informed the authorities on a confidential basis of our observations concerning the detention conditions.

Around the world, the ICRC’s detention activities are aimed at protecting the dignity and physical well-being of people deprived of their liberty.

    

 Has the Red Cross experienced any problems treating the wounded or gaining access to the areas where they are located?  

The Honduran Red Cross has responded to the emergency calls received and has been able to enter the areas affected by the violence to provide victims with emergency medical care.

It is very important that Honduran Red Cross volunteers be able to evacuate the wounded safely. The ICRC has supplied the fi rst-aid teams with first-aid kits, radios and helmets, and tabards and flags bearing the red cross emblem. This protective emblem represents the organization’s neutrality and impartiality.

We have also supported regional workshops providing training on safe access for Honduran Red Cross teams, volunteers and first-aid workers, mainly in Tegucigalpa, but also in other branches in the country.

      

 What else can the ICRC do during the current crisis, apart from visiting detainees and facilitating the provision of assistance to the wounded?  

 We are in contact with the different parties involved in the crisis, with the aim of ensuring respect for the humanitarian work carried out by volunteers from the Honduran Red Cross. We also offer our services as a neutral and independent intermediary, in order to carry out activities for the benefit of those affected by the violence.

In addition, we are planning to run a course in October for senior officers from the national police on the use of force in police work. This kind of course is intended to prevent human rights violations by the police and security forces and ensure that people are protected at all times.