ICRC activities in 2008 in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay

07-05-2009 Operational Update

The ICRC strives increasingly to assist people caught up in internal violence and tensions, especially clashes in urban settings and strife related to social, indigenous and land issues in various parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Chile. It also promotes international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles throughout the region.

  Chilean Red Cross volunteer giving a medical examination to a resident of Tres Arroyos in the Araucanía region of Chile.    
  ICRC delegates distributing aid to 70 farmers held in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. A total of 700 detainees received hygiene items.    
  First joint meeting, held in Chile, of members of the committees for the implementation of international humanitarian law of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.    
  Together with the Brazilian Red Cross, the ICRC taught six first-aid courses in four 'socially vulnerable' neighbourhoods of Río de Janeiro.    

In 2008 the ICRC stepped up its activities in'socially vulnerable'areas of Río de Janeiro – those beset by rampant violence and lacking the most basic services. To this end, it increased its staff in the city to two expatriates and eight local employees.

It also continued to visit persons held for security reasons in Chile and Paraguay and pursued its programme, begun in 2006, to improve health-care services in prisons in Paraguay.

The organization urged police and security forces in Brazil and Paraguay to incorporate human rights law relating to the use of force into their instruction manuals and it promoted the teaching of humanitarian principles to students attending middle schools in Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

The ICRC cooperated with the region's National Red Cross Societies, especially those of Brazil, Chile and Paraguay, in order to provide more effective assistance for people caught up in violence.

It continued to promote international humanitarian law (IHL), whose provisions protect persons not or no longer taking part in hostilities and restrict the means and methods of warfare that can be used in armed conflict. This included efforts to provide support and technical advice for the region's authorities in charge of ratifying IHL treaties and incorporating them into domestic legislation.

It also strove to ensure that the provisions of IHL be included in the training programmes of the armed forces and in the curriculum of academic institutions.

 In 2008 the ICRC carried out visits to persons incarcerated in Chile and Paraguay to ensure that their physical and psychological conditions of detention were in conformity with fundamental norms protecting the individual. It also helped maintain and restore ties between separated family members through its tracing network and the exchange of Red Cross messages.

 Visits to detainees  

In Paraguay the ICRC continued to support efforts by prison and health authorities to strengthen medical care in places of detention and sponsored an agreement to this effect between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice and Labour. It carried out two distributions of emergency aid with a view to improving the conditions of hygiene in the prisons of Ciudad del Este and Tacumbú. It also visited 26 persons deprived of their freedom and helped families visit detained relatives.

In Chile, ICRC delegates visited 46 detainees held in connection with the situation of the Mapuche indigenous population. The ICRC also visited six Paraguayan and two Chilean nationals held for security reasons in Argentina.

 Restoring family links  

The ICRC restored contact between members of families split up by armed conflict and other situations of violence, enabling them to telephone each other and exchange Red Cross messages. In some cases, to ensure that they reached their destination, the messages were forwarded to National Red Cross Societies or to the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, which is the repository of documents on the persecution, exploitation and extermination of millions of people by the Nazi regime.

The ICRC also delivered certificates to veterans of the Falklands / Malvinas wa r, establishing their former status as prisoners of war, and issued other certificates of detention.

Promoting norms protecting the individual  
 The ICRC continued to promote norms protecting the individual in armed conflict and other situations of violence and to spread awareness of its mandate and activities among the authorities, the armed and police forces and various sectors of civil society.


The ICRC provided technical advice to national authorities in charge of incorporating the provisions of IHL into domestic legislation. In 2008, it focused its efforts on encouraging States to ratify and implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The organization sponsored the first meeting of the national committees for the implementation of IHL of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Members of the committees shared their experience in establishing measures to include the provisions of the law in domestic legislation, highlighting the progress made and the challenges ahead, and drafting a plan of action.

 Promoting IHL among the armed forces  

The ICRC strives to promote the introduction of IHL into the doctrine, training manuals and exercises of the armed forces everywhere it can.

In Argentina, the armed forces approved, through the Ministry of Defence and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a new manual including IHL provisions. The ICRC was given the opportunity to comment on its contents.

In Paraguay the ICRC held two training seminars for navy and air force officers and for instructors of the three branches of the armed forces.

The Brazilian Ministry of Defence issued an order in 2008 instructing the country's armed forces to include IHL in their instruction programmes, manuals and doctrine. The ICRC had helped train Brazilian officers in IHL for four years running.

The ICRC also took part in seminars held to inform Argentine and Brazilian members of the United Nations peace-keeping forces deployed in Haiti about IHL, international human rights law and the ICRC's mandate and activities in the country.

 Human rights law applicable to police operations  

For the past decade the ICRC has been striving to ensure that the provisions of human rights law relating to the use of force are included in the instruction, training, doctrine and rules of conduct of the Brazilian and Paraguayan police forces.

In 2008 the ICRC signed cooperation agreements with the police and security forces in the Brazilian states of Maranhao and Distrito Federal. The doctrine and instruction manuals of the police forces of six Brazilian states and of the Paraguayan national police forces were also reviewed for the purpose of ensuring that they included human rights norms.

 Civil society  

In 2008 the ICRC organized seminars for journalists in Chile, Argentina and Brazil covering armed conflicts, international norms relating to the use of force and the organization's activities and mandate. A seminar was also held for students of journalism in Brazil, with the cooperation of press associations.

Principles such as tolerance, respect, solidarity and limits to the use of force were also discussed with students attending 20 middle schools in violence-prone neighbourhoods of Río de Janeiro. The same curriculum, which is part of the ICRC's Exploring Humanitarian Law programme, was taught in Chile and Uruguay.

The ICRC also distributed up-to-date information on IHL to 300 university professors in the region and sponsored the participation of university students in international competitions on IHL.

Cooperation with National Red Cross Societies 

With the cooperation of the Brazilian Red Cross, the ICRC stepped up its response to humanitarian needs arising from armed violence in Brazil's poorest communities, known as favelas. It held six first-aid training courses in four neighbourhoods of Río de Janeiro and, in December, launched a preventive campaign against dengue fever in seven areas of the city.

The ICRC continued to support the activities of the Chilean Red Cross in the Araucanía region aimed at improving the access of rural communities, inhabited mainly by Mapuche indigenous people, to basic health services. These included five operations in the field, first-aid courses and talks on disease prevention.

Together with the ICRC, the Paraguayan Red Cross trained 253 first-aid workers in nine rural indigenous communities in the departments of Concepción, San Pedro and Canindeyú.