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Iraq : ICRC calls for greater respect for basic tenets of humanity

19-11-2004 News Release 04/138

"We are deeply concerned by the devastating impact that the fighting in Iraq is having on the people of that country."- Statement by Pierre Krähenbühl, Director of Operations of the ICRC

As hostilities continue in Falluja and elsewhere, every day seems to bring news of yet another act of utter contempt for the most basic tenet of humanity: the obligation to protect human life and dignity. This week it was the killing of a wounded fighter and of yet another hostage – humanitarian worker Margaret Hassan – that shocked the world. Like any other armed conflict, this one is subject to limits, and they must be respected at all times.

For the parties to this conflict, complying with international humanitarian law is an obligation, not an option. There is an absolute prohibition on the killing of persons who are not taking active part in the hostilities, or have ceased to do so. It is also prohibited to torture them or to subject them to any form of inhuman, humiliating or degrading treatment. Furthermore, the parties to the conflict must provide adequate medical care for the wounded – friend or foe – on the battlefield or allow them to be taken elsewhere for treatment. They must do everything possible to help civilians caught up in the fighting obtain the basics of survival such as food, water and health care. The taking of hostages, whether Iraqi or foreign, is forbidden in all circumstances. If these rules or any other applicable rules of international humanitarian law are violated, the persons responsible must be held accountable for their actions.

Regrettably, recent events have again shown just how difficult it has become for neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organizations to assist and protect the victims of the conflict in Iraq. Once again, the International Committee of the Red Cross appeals for everything possible to be done to allow such organizations to come to the aid of the thousands of Iraqis who are suffering. "

 For further information, please contact:  

 Rana Sidani, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 79 251 93 18  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 29 30  

 Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 730 22 82