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Sudan: ICRC staff member abducted a week ago in West Darfur

29-10-2009 Interview

ICRC staff member Gauthier Lefèvre was abducted in West Darfur, Sudan, a week ago. The ICRC's head of operations for East Africa, Daniel Duvillard, speaks about how the organization is dealing with this crisis.

 

   
 
Daniel Duvillard, the ICRC's head of operations for East Africa.    
   Who is behind the abduction and has a ransom been requested?  

We don't know exactly who is behind the abduction or what their motives are, and we don't want to speculate. We have received a ransom request, but as a matter of policy, the ICRC does not pay out ransom money. The ICRC will continue to do its best through its regular means and channels of communication to find a positive resolution and ensure respect for the physical integrity of our staff member.

We did manage to make contact with the abductors on 23 October. On the following day we were able to speak directly with our colleague, Gauthier Lefevre. He says he's in good health and that he has been given food and water. He seemed to be in good spirits under the circumstances. We appreciate how difficult the situation is for Gauthier's family and friends, and we are in daily contact with them.

 How did the abduction actually happen?  

Gauthier, the head of the ICRC office in Al Geneina, West Darfur, was abducted by several armed men near the town around noon local time on 22 October. Gauthier was returning with other ICRC colleagues to Al Geneina after a field trip north of the town to help local communities upgrade their water supply systems. He was travelling in one of two clearly marked ICRC vehicles when he was seized.

Gaut hier is 35 years old. He has been working in Al Geneina for about 15 months. He's been with the ICRC for almost five years now, mainly in Asia before coming to Sudan.

 Did the ICRC suspend its activities in Sudan?  

We have temporarily suspended activities in West Darfur only. In fact, it is precisely because the ICRC is facing this crisis that it is more determined than ever to do what it can to help communities bearing the brunt of years of armed conflict in Darfur. We continue to focus on addressing the urgent needs of vulnerable people in remote rural areas. We remain ready to respond to emergencies.

Our work in the rest of Darfur, and in southern and central Sudan, is therefore continuing. The ICRC operation in Sudan remains the organization’s largest worldwide. Our priorities are to ensure that people adversely affected by armed conflict are respected and protected in accordance with international humanitarian law. The ICRC, in cooperation with the Sudanese Red Crescent and other members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, works to ensure that the people receive relief aid, medical care and assistance to preserve their livelihoods, and that they can restore contact with family members they have been separated from.. Respect for humanitarian workers is essential in achieving these objectives.