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ICRC President visits Kabul

24-11-2001 News Release 01/59

Geneva (ICRC) – The President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, has completed a 24-hour visit to Kabul. Mr Kellenberger arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday aboard an ICRC aircraft.

" I wanted to come to Kabul to personally thank our Afghan staff, who have kept the ICRC’s operation going over the past two months " , explained Mr Kellenberger. " Their courage and commitment have enabled them to maintain the bulk of ICRC activities in Afghanistan throughout an extremely difficult period, thus ensuring vital assistance to their fellow citizens at a critical time. "

Mr Kellenberger met with members of the organization’s Afghan staff in Kabul as offices opened Saturday morning. There are some 500 Afghan employees working in and around Kabul and a further 500 in other parts of the country. They remained at their posts when the organization’s expatriate staff were withdrawn on 16 September. Throughout the ensuing period they distributed medical supplies, food and other relief, repaired damaged water- and electricity-supply systems and maintained the ICRC’s six limb-fitting and rehabilitation centres in Afghanistan.

Mr Kellenberger also met President Burhanuddin Rabbani, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, General Fahim and Mr Mohammed Younus Qanuni. He outlined the priorities for the ICRC’s Afghanistan operation over the coming months, including visits to people detained in connection with the conflict and aid to hospitals and the civilian population.

In his talks with the authorities, the ICRC President discussed their responsibilities under international humanitarian law regardi ng protection of the civilian population, treatment of prisoners and care for the wounded. Mr Kellenberger shared with them his particular concern about the critical situation in Konduz. He also stressed the authorities’ obligation to ensure humane treatment of any person no longer taking an active part in the hostilities, in particular anyone who has laid down his weapons in order to surrender.