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Colombia: Monitoring the situation

28-02-2002 News Release 02/09

On 21 February, following the recent breakdown of negotiations between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia/People's Army (FARC-EP) and the government, the ICRC called on all parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law. The ICRC is concerned that an escalation of the violence will threaten the safety of the civilian population and make the humanitarian situation worse. In its appeal the ICRC reminded the parties of their obligations to distinguish both between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military targets and to refrain from indiscriminate attacks.

The same day, the ICRC sent five teams including medical personnel to San Vicente del Caguán, Vista Hermosa, La Uribe, La Macarena and Mesetas so that they could establish a permanent presence in these municipalities, closely monitor the situation there and organize the distribution of humanitarian assistance should the need arise. The teams have already carried out some medical evacuations.

On 24 February the ICRC started a survey of humanitarian needs in the Macarena area, which was affected by bombardments. It also transported medical and other supplies from Villavicencio and Florencia to Mesetas and San Vicente with a view to building up stocks in these two municipalities.

Colombian Red Cross volunteers are providing the ICRC team in San Vicente with much needed support. Having helped with the medical evacuations, they are currently taking part in assessing humanitarian needs.

The ICRC opened a delegation in Colombia in 1980. It now maintains 17 offices it in the country, out of which its 53 expatriates and 200 national employees car ry out essential protection and assistance activities for the victims of the ongoing conflict, often in cooperation with the Colombian Red Cross and other National Red Cross Societies.