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Colombia: additional information concerning the release of four members of the police and armed forces on 1 February

06-02-2009 News Release 33/09

Bogotá (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would like to provide some further information concerning the handover of four members of the police and armed forces by the FARC in a rural area of Caquetá department on 1 February.

As the four men were being released, the ICRC delegates taking part in this humanitarian operation heard the sound of an aircraft flying overhead. This caused considerable tension, both at the handover location and at Villavicencio airport, where the helicopter was due to go following the handover. Since the interests of the victims and those participating in the humanitarian operation are the main priority in these situations, the delegates informed the head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia, Christophe Beney. He conveyed his concern to the Colombian defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, and the flights ceased a few minutes later.

The ICRC, as a neutral intermediary, engages in confidential dialogue with the Colombian government, its police and armed forces, and with armed groups to obtain the necessary security guarantees for the release of hostages and detainees. On the evening of Friday 30 January, the head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia had met the defence minister, the three commanders of the armed forces, the joint chief of staff, the joint chief of operations, the deputy defence minister and the defence minister’s private secretary to obtain the requisite security guarantees for a specific area in Caquetá department.

During this meeting, the ICRC and the Ministry of Defence representatives agreed in good faith that all military activity in the area would be suspended, without exception, including all military flights. In addition, any commercial planes crossing the area were to fly no lower than 20,000 feet. This agreement was the basis for the first operation on 1 February.

The ICRC is nevertheless delighted with the success of the three humanitarian operations carried out between 1 and 5 February. These operations led to the release of six people who are today reunited with their families and loved ones. The ICRC once again thanks all parties and everyone involved for their cooperation.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Yves Heller, ICRC Bogotá, tel: +57 1 313 86 30 or +57 311 491 07 89
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2458 or +41 79 217 32 24