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The ICRC and the use of armed guards

30-01-1997 News Release 97/04

The fact that the ICRC is considering the use of armed guards following a recent meeting of its heads of delegation held to discuss problems of security in humanitarian action has been misinterpreted in some sectors of the media. The ICRC clearly does not intend to protect humanitarian activities with armed escorts, and strongly reaffirms its conviction that humanitarian work must be dissociated from military operations aimed at ensuring security and restoring law and order in regions affected by conflict. The ICRC thus rules out the use of armed escorts to protect humanitarian convoys or any other humanitarian activity.

On the other hand, in situations marked by increasing crime and banditry, the ICRC has decided to step up security for its expatriate and local staff and its premises by advocating the use of armed guards at residences and at the workplace. This service will be provided by guards recruited from local, officially recognized security firms; it will be offered as long as it is accepted by the authorities and the population, and only to protect staff from criminal activity.

In situations where the risk stems from a problem of acceptance of the ICRC's presence and of its humanitarian action, the ICRC will continue to try and establish a permanent dialogue with all parties to the conflict. This dialogue is essential in order to obtain guarantees of respect for the ICRC's staff and infrastructure and for those of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to assist conflict victims.