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Syria: ICRC president concludes visit by holding talks with Syrian president

05-09-2011 News Release

Geneva/Damascus (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Jakob Kellenberger, concluded his visit to Syria by holding talks this morning with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The meeting came as ICRC delegates started visiting the Damascus Central Prison, in the suburb of Adra.

"The Syrian authorities have granted the ICRC access to a place of detention for the first time. Initially, we will have access to persons detained by the Ministry of the Interior, and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to visit all detainees," said Mr Kellenberger. "ICRC delegates began their visits on 4 September. This is an important step forward for our humanitarian activities in Syria."

The talks between President al-Assad and President Kellenberger focused on relations between the Syrian government and the ICRC and on developments since June, when Mr Kellenberger last visited the country.

Mr Kellenberger welcomed the progress made in terms of access to areas affected by the ongoing violence. He emphasized that one of his main concerns now is to ensure that the wounded and sick are able to obtain medical care.

Also discussed were the rules governing the use of force by security forces in the current situation and the obligation to respect the physical and psychological well-being and human dignity of detainees. The same concerns were discussed in Mr Kellenberger's meetings with other senior officials, particularly Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

The ICRC visits people in places of detention to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. Findings are shared confidentially with the authorities concerned. The purpose of these visits, carried out in accordance with the ICRC's standard working procedures, is to ensure that detainees are treated humanely and that their dignity is respected and preserved.

The ICRC was granted access to all areas of unrest during Mr Kellenberger's visit to the country last June. In close cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the ICRC has since been able to rapidly assess the humanitarian situation in many restive places, such as Hama, Idlib, Homs, Latakia, Deir Ezzor and Dara'a. In addition, ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent personnel have provided supplies for public and private health-care facilities, and food parcels and hygiene kits for thousands of families affected by the current unrest.

On several occasions, the ICRC has called upon the authorities and all others involved in the unrest to respect at all times humanitarian workers and volunteers, first-aid providers and health-care facilities. "I have insisted that Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and medical personnel must be allowed to carry out their life-saving work in safety," said the ICRC president.

For further information, please contact:
Saleh Dabbakeh, ICRC Damascus: tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26