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Colombia: ICRC condemns grave breaches of international humanitarian law, suspends medical evacuations of wounded combatants

03-10-2000 News Release 00/37

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemns two separate incidents over the past 10 days in which wounded combatants being evacuated by its delegates were seized and summarily executed by men belonging to enemy forces. These acts, which constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law, have obliged the organization to suspend all medical evacuations of wounded combatants within Colombia until reliable guarantees are obtained from all parties to the conflict.

On 2 October, a wounded combatant of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia was killed in cold blood by members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) in the course of a medical evacuation being conducted by the ICRC in Putumayo, southern Colombia. Ten days before, a wounded member of the FARC had been killed in Apartado in similar circumstances by men of the Autodefensas de Cordoba y Uraba.

In both instances, the ICRC had notified  all armed groups involved in the conflict of its evacuation plans and obtained from them security guarantees that these humanitarian operations could proceed unhindered.

The ICRC calls on all the warring parties to implement humanitarian law, whose provisions require that those not actively taking part in hostilities be spared, and to respect the red cross emblem and individuals engaged in humanitarian work for the victims of the conflict. Furthermore, international law expressly states that a violation committed by one party does not legitimize similar action by the adversary.

Despite its suspension of such evacuations, the I CRC is maintaining all other operations in Colombia.