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ICRC activities related to the hostage crisis in Lima

10-01-1997 Operational Update

 International humanitarian law prohibits the taking of hostages (see Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions, the Fourth Geneva Convention (Articles 34 and 147), Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions (Article 75) and Additional Protocol II (Article 4)). The ICRC condemns all acts that contravene international humanitarian law and the principles of humanity, especially those that affect or threaten innocent lives. In this context as in all others, the ICRC was guided solely by the interests of the victims and the desire to help them.  


On 17 December 1996, a commando of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) seized control of the residence of the Ambassador of Japan in Lima and took all those present hostage. Since then, ICRC delegates have continued to provide basic materials to meet the humanitarian needs of the hostages. As of 9 January, all but 74 hostages had been released. The general situation remains largely stable, although there is growing concern about the continuation of the crisis.

 Relief assistance  

ICRC delegates continue to provide hostages with water and two hot meals a day, as well as with toiletries and other essentials. Among other things, efforts are being made to cater for special dietary requirements or preferences. Since the electricity supply has still not been r estored, candles and torches are taken to the embassy on a regular basis. Clothes, underwear and leisure articles, such as card and board games and books, are also distributed. Work to restore the normal water supply to the embassy is planned to be carried out, which would greatly improve the situation for the hostages.

 Medical and psychological support  

The hostages are examined daily by two medical delegates, who also provide essential drugs and medical supplies. The tense situation and general uncertainty are putting the hostages under severe strain. As the crisis wears on, psychological support is therefore increasingly important. Counselling services have been made available to distressed relatives of the hostages, on whom the emotional stress is also taking a heavy toll. The 1,800 Red Cross messages exchanged so far between the hostages and their families play a very important role in alleviating anxiety on both sides.

 Facilitating dialogue  

In this highly sensitive situation, the ICRC continues, at the request of both the Peruvian government and the MRTA, to act as a neutral intermediary to facilitate the establishment of a dialogue between the parties, in the hope that this will allow them to find a peaceful solution. The delegation therefore actively maintains contact with both sides. In playing this role of facilitator, the ICRC assumes no responsibility for any proposals passed on, decisions made or action taken by either of the two parties. However, it has requested the parties to guarantee that they would not resort to force or take any steps that may harm the hostages or hamper ICRC delegates'freedom of movement.

 The ICRC's work in Peru  

The ICRC has been working in Peru on a permanent basis since 1984. During the past year, the ICRC visited over 4,000 security detainees, including imprisoned members of the MRTA, to check on their conditions of detention and treatment. Since the beginning of the crisis, ICRC delegates have not been in a position to visit Peruvian prisons. Discussions with the authorities are in progress with a view to resuming ICRC activities in these places of detention. Delegates also regularly provide medical and relief assistance to the inhabitants of conflict zones, and seek to obtain their respect. Thanks to the delegation's long-standing presence and good track-record in Peru, it has been able to win the trust of all parties, which is essential to its present role.