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Afghanistan: ICRC calls on all parties to comply with international humanitarian law

23-11-2001 News Release 01/58

Geneva (ICRC) - Recently a number of public statements attributed to various leaders involved in the Afghan conflict have implied that the physical integrity of captured foreign fighters cannot be guaranteed. There have also been reports that in some parts of the country no prisoners would be taken. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned about these reports, as well as about allegations that massacres of prisoners have already occurred.

In view of the situation in and around the besieged town of Kunduz and in other parts of the country where fighting continues, the ICRC feels it is necessary to impress upon all parties concerned that the rules governing armed conflict must be respected at all times and in all circumstances. The ICRC stresses that these rules, formally referred to as international humanitarian law, prohibit orders that there should be no survivors. A fighter who clearly indicates his intention to surrender to an enemy is no longer a legitimate target and is entitled to the protection afforded him by the law. Killings, torture, and humiliating or degrading treatment are prohibited. Offences allegedly committed by an individual can be dealt with only in accordance with internationally accepted standards of justice.

During the past weeks the ICRC has repeatedly approached all parties involved in the Afghan conflict and those believed to have influence over them, stressing the obligations incumbent on all of them in these difficult times. In particular, the ICRC has reaffirmed that the dignity and rights of every individual must be respected, and that a clear distinction between combatants and non-combatants must be maintained.