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Libya: ICRC urges respect for health-care workers and civilians

18-08-2011 News Release 11/166

Tripoli/Benghazi/Geneva (ICRC) – Over the past few days, intensified fighting has resulted in a rapid deterioration in the humanitarian situation in and around Brega, Al Zawiya, Gharyan, Sabratha and near Misrata. The ICRC is deeply concerned about the increasing number of casualties and about allegations of weapon bearers misusing health-care facilities.

"We are hearing about hospitals being attacked or used for military purposes. On Tuesday, in Brega, our delegates saw several ambulances hit by bullets," said Georges Comninos, the head of the ICRC delegation in Tripoli. "This is seriously compromising the delivery of health care to the wounded and sick."

Under international humanitarian law, parties to an armed conflict must distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters, and take all feasible precautions to spare civilian lives. Medical staff and facilities must also be spared. "We call on all parties involved to protect civilians and allow health-care workers to do their jobs safely. Many lives could be saved," said Mr Comninos.

A week ago, the ICRC delivered medical supplies to the main hospital in Al Zawiya, a coastal city about 50 kilometres west of Tripoli. The supplies included surgical equipment, intravenous fluids, dressing materials and other items needed to treat wounded people. Heavy fighting is currently taking place in densely populated areas of Al Zawiya.

"Some of the areas where the fighting is fiercest are unreachable for the moment. We hope to quickly be granted access so that we can bring people the assistance they need," said Mr Comninos. "We urge those involved in the fighting to facilitate humanitarian access to those places."

The ICRC has maintained a permanent presence in Libya since the armed conflict began in late February. Its staff are based in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and the Nefusa mountains.

For further information, please contact:
Robin Waudo, ICRC Tripoli, tel: +881 622 435 156 or +218 913 066 198
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Benghazi, tel: +870 772 390 124
Steven Anderson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 50 or +41 22 730 20 11


Photos

Ras Lanuf Hospital, Libya. Doctors treat a patient during the first days of the conflict. 

Ras Lanuf Hospital, Libya. Doctors treat a patient during the first days of the conflict.
© ICRC / A. Liohn