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Colombia: ICRC assists in release of persons deprived of their freedom

05-07-2001 News Release 01/26

Following an agreement reached by the Colombian government and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), 359 army personnel and policemen and 14 FARC members were released between 5 and 30 June. This complex operation was successfully carried out with humanitarian, logistical and technical support from the ICRC.

At the request of both parties, and in its capacity as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC gave medical check-ups to those being released, spoke with them in private and made sure they were provided with transportation to reception areas where their relatives were waiting. Twenty delegates were involved in the operation, which was conducted in four separate stages in various parts of the country.

" The sight of hundreds of family members anxiously awaiting their sons, husbands, brothers and fathers, some of whom they hadn't seen in two years, was a source of great satisfaction to our colleagues in the field " , said Thomas Ess, deputy head of operations for Latin America.

To address Colombia's complex humanitarian crisis, the ICRC has adopted a comprehensive strategy focusing on both protection and assistance activities, including health-care programmes, designed to preserve the physical integrity and the dignity of conflict victims. An average of 53 expatriates and 190 Colombian staff strive to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs of approximately 150,000 people each year. In recent months, as the fighting has intensified and spread to larger areas, the toll has continued to mount.