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Busts of Emir Abdelkader and Henry Dunant to be unveiled at ICRC in Geneva

17-09-2013 News Release 13/151

Following the official visit paid by the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Algeria in May in connection with the ICRC's 150th anniversary, Algeria has given the organization two bronze busts, one of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883) and the other of Henry Dunant (1828-1910).

The two sculptures will be unveiled in the "Humanitarium," a new visitor and conference facility at the ICRC's Geneva headquarters, by Tayeb Louh, Algeria's minister of justice and keeper of the seals, and by Peter Maurer, the ICRC's president, in the presence of the head of the permanent mission of Algeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other international organizations in Switzerland, the chairman of the Emir Abdelkader Foundation, the chairman of the Société Henry Dunant, and members of the Committee (the ICRC's governing body).

"This gift symbolizes the excellent bilateral relations Algeria and the ICRC have enjoyed for over half a century," said Mr Maurer. "I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the humanitarian ideal conceived by Emir Abdelkader."

The event taking place in Geneva reflects the intention of Algeria and the ICRC to strengthen their cooperation and the ties they have had historically, with a view to enhancing respect for human dignity in times of armed conflict on the basis of the humanitarian principles upheld by Emir Abdelkader and Henry Dunant.

Emir Abdelkader, the founder of the modern Algerian State, was a major figure in terms of what he achieved both militarily and in the humanitarian field. A symbol of resistance against colonial occupation, as a war leader he was faced with difficult choices between the necessities of combat and preserving human dignity. Despite his determination to defeat the enemy, he also became known for his humanity and his desire to alleviate the suffering of victims of armed conflict. Many years before modern international humanitarian law was codified, Emir Abdelkader had already laid down a requirement that French prisoners of war be treated humanely.

Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross and the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, stayed in Algeria on several occasions. Seeking business opportunities, he was forced by his difficulties with the colonial administration to make his way to Italy in order to solicit the support of Napoleon III. On 25 June 1859 he found himself on the battlefield at Solferino. In shock and distress at the human violence he had witnessed, he wrote his famous "Memory of Solferino," which led to the founding of the Red Cross and the emergence of international humanitarian law.

The ICRC, which has been working in Algeria since the outbreak of the war of liberation in 1954, has had a permanent delegation in the country since 2002. Its main activity in Algeria consists in visiting detainees to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive, and to achieve improvements if necessary. The ICRC works alongside the Algerian Red Crescent and provides support for the authorities in their efforts to promote international humanitarian law.

For further information, please contact:
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 49 or +41 79 244 64 05