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Eritrea/Ethiopia: ICRC deplores public use of its information

22-03-1999 News Release 99/12

Geneva (ICRC) - According to a communiqué issued on 18 March by the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an Eritrean citizen interned in a camp at Bilate, Ethiopia, was subjected to " physical and mental torture " , which contributed to his death. In its capacity as a neutral and impartial intermediary, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had notified the Eritrean authorities of the man's death, as provided by the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in time of war.

This is not the first time in the context of the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia that the ICRC has been used publicly to denounce violations of international humanitarian law allegedly committed by one or other of the parties. The ICRC has stressed on several occasions that such a practice can only jeopardize a purely humanitarian operation in aid of the victims of the conflict.

The ICRC strongly deplores the public use of such information for propaganda purposes. It regularly visits prisoners of war and civilian internees in the Bilate camp and is therefore in a position to state that the allegations as to the death causes are unfounded.

Although Eritrea has not adhered to the Four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, it is bound to comply with the rules of customary law.