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Colombia: armed groups release civilians

03-04-1997 News Release 97/12

Seven people held captive by armed groups involved in Colombia's internal conflict were handed over to ICRC delegates last week.

Five of the captives had been held by the ACCU (Rural Self-Defence Groups of Cordoba and Uraba), some for eight months. On 26 March they were released in the Uraba region, in northern Antioquia department, and handed over to a joint commission, which included an ICRC delegate.

Immediately following their release the ICRC provided them with transport home to their families throughout Colombia.

Three of the five had been visited by ICRC delegates several times during their captivity, and were thus able to maintain contact with their families by means of Red Cross Messages.

On 23 March, a German national held since December 1996 by the ELN (National Liberation Army) was handed over to an ICRC delegate based in Valledupar, capital of the department of Cesar. The ICRC arranged for him to return to his family in Quito, Ecuador.

In the same department, a Colombian who had been held captive for several weeks was released by the ELN on 28 March. He too was handed over to a Valledupar-based delegate.

The ICRC provides humanitarian services for persons who have been abducted in Colombia. It urges the armed groups holding these people to confirm that they are being held captive. It asks that the captives be allowed to contact their families by means of Red Cross Messages and that delegates be allowed to visit them. It also arranges transport home once they are released.

Since last August, 40 people have been released under ICR C auspices by armed groups in Colombia.