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Solomon Islands: Red Cross responds to Guadalcanal crisis

08-06-2000 News Release 00/21

Two ICRC delegates who were already on the spot are working with the Solomon Islands Red Cross to address the humanitarian needs arising from the upsurge of violence between the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) and the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) around Honiara airport on the island of Guadalcanal.

On 7 June the delegates visited the Honiara prison, where about a hundred people are currently being held. Detainees registered during the events of last year have been receiving regular visits. The ICRC is now in the process of registering the remaining inmates, including common-law detainees, because of the threat to their safety from unidentified armed men who gained access to the compound. Steps are also being taken to ensure that medical care is given to those who need it.

Armed men claiming to belong to the MEF have been going into the Honiara hospital to intimidate staff and look for patients of Gwale origin. The National Red Cross Society is therefore registering all patients and staff for their own protection. In discussions held on the subject with an MEF spokesman, the acting Commissioner of Police and commanders of armed groups, they all agreed to issue instructions that no armed men be allowed into the hospital.

Following discussions with both parties, Red Cross personnel were able to go on 8 June to the area where there had been fighting the previous day to assess humanitarian needs. People met on the spot could not confirm that there had been any casualties.

A New Zealand Red Cross nurse is standing by to join the team in Honiara as soon as travel is pos sible.

Since 5 June, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation has been airing Red Cross radio spots urging combatants to respect the civilian population.