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Republic of the Congo: ICRC evacuates wounded and urges respect for humanitarian law

17-06-2002 News Release 02/35

Geneva (ICRC) - Following the fighting that broke out on 14 June in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) immediately coordinated the evacuation of the dead and wounded in cooperation with volunteers from the Congolese Red Cross. To date the ICRC has taken 12 severely wounded people and five serious medical cases and pregnant women to the city's hospitals, and has transferred 19 bodies to the city morgue.

The ICRC has provided the military hospital receiving the wounded with support in the form of various medicines, dressing materials and supplies for treating bone fractures. An assessment of the needs of the displaced was also carried out all day Sunday. Some of the   many   displaced people were taken in by relatives or other families, while the rest have gathered in places where water and sanitation are already lacking. The ICRC's Central Tracing Agency has also been approached by members of families split up by the events. Among these cases are eight families seeking 13 children. Previously the ICRC had found five other children who had become separated from their families.

In addition, the ICRC has remained in close contact with the military and police authorities so as to ensure the safety of its staff in the field. The ICRC's delegates and delegation employees and local Red Cross volunteers have thus been able to carry out their humanitarian work without incident or hindrance.

Finally, in accordance with its mandate, the ICRC reminds all parties to the conflict of their obliga tion to comply with the principles and rules of international humanitarian law applicable to non-international armed conflicts. In particular, they must distinguish at all times between the civilian population and those taking a direct part in the hostilities, and between civilian property and military objectives. Neither the civilian population as such nor individual civilians may be attacked. Women must be accorded special respect and must be protected in particular against rape and any other form of indecent assault. Persons not directly participating in the hostilities, including those out of action because they are wounded, detained or sick, must be treated humanely and their lives must be spared in all circumstances.

This protection is also extended to medical personnel, facilities and means of transport. Commanders must maintain discipline among their men, whose conduct towards the civilian population must at all times be in keeping with the above-stated principles. Finally, the ICRC calls on the authorities concerned and all those taking part in the violence to continue to facilitate the work of Congolese Red Cross volunteers, its own delegates and those of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.