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Niger: ICRC evacuates 30 casualties following armed clashes in north

02-07-2007 News Release 07/84

Geneva (ICRC) – Today, 2 July 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) completed the evacuation of 30 Forces Armées du Niger (FAN) personnel injured during armed clashes in the north of the country.

The ICRC was acting in its capacity of neutral intermediary, at the request of both the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ) and the FAN. All the casualties evacuated were taken to Arlit hospital, some 2,000 km north-east of the capital. An ICRC surgical team travelled to Arlit to treat them.

Throughout the operation, the two main priorities were to provide the necessary treatment while ensuring that the transfer proceeded safely, both for the casualties and for the ICRC team. Travel in the region is difficult. Since February 2007, several humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from the area on account of the security situation. “Every minute counted. The ICRC seemed to be the only organization capable of mounting this kind of operation successfully at such short notice, partly on account of our mandate and partly because we can call on the skills of other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement,” says Stefan Keller, an ICRC delegate in Agadez.

On 22 June, the ICRC was informed that clashes between the FAN and the MNJ in the far north-east of Niger had resulted in 72 FAN personnel being taken prisoner. Many of them were wounded and required medical and surgical treatment. Today, 30 of them were evacuated and received medical treatment, before being handed over to local authorities in Arlit.

These 30 individuals will soon be reunited with their families, but the ICRC remains concerned about personnel still held by the MNJ.

The ICRC reminds the parties of certain humanitarian principles, such as respect for civilians, the wounded and people deprived of their liberty, and the ban on anti-personnel mines. Customary international humanitarian law requires all parties to provide persons in captivity with the best medical treatment possible and to ensure their safety and their physical and mental well-being. The parties are also required to ensure that prisoners receive food and water. The ICRC stresses that everyone who has been captured must be allowed to contact their families, who will be worried about them. The organization hopes to return to the region, in order to visit the prisoners it was unable to see this time and to reiterate its offer to return all prisoners to their homes, not just those who are wounded.

The ICRC was able to conduct this operation thanks to the practical assistance, logistics support and personnel provided by the Red Cross Society of Niger, the French Red Cross, the Irish Red Cross Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Médecins sans Frontières (both French and Swiss). The organization wishes to thank all who contributed to the success of the operation.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Cédric Schweizer, ICRC Dakar, tel: +221 824 12 93 or +41 79 217 32 41  

 Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 2271 or +41 79 217 32 17