ICRC recalls the importance of humanitarian work amid demonstrations

Bogota (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned about rising violence in different parts of Colombia and the ensuing humanitarian consequences.

In the last two weeks, over 100 attacks on healthcare workers and services across Colombia were reported; workers were threatened, and medical vehicles and personnel were subject to physical attacks. Of particular concern is the obstruction of ambulance circulation, which has already resulted in the loss of at least one life, and the blockage of the transportation of vital medical supplies.

This situation restricts and jeopardizes the work carried out by health professionals, especially during the third peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to obstructing access to healthcare for communities and patients.

The ICRC calls for respect for health services in all circumstances. It is essential that health personnel are able to carry out their life-saving work, and that vital medical supplies reach their destination.

We are equally concerned about the direct impact on citizens of existing violence, including homicides, sexual violence, disappearances, threats, physical attacks and abuse reported in different parts of the country in the past few days. These violent incidents inflict suffering upon a great deal of families, leaving a deep wound in society that will take time to heal.

As a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, we stand in solidarity, without discrimination, with the people who suffer these humanitarian consequences. We stress the importance and necessity of respecting the integrity and dignity of all people during ongoing social mobilizations.

Operationally, the ICRC in Colombia focuses on situations of armed conflict and organized armed violence; it is in these specific contexts that we assist and protect victims. However, we recognize that the principle of humanity encompasses all contexts in which people suffer, and therefore call upon organizations and citizens to make an effort to prevent violence in order to prevent further humanitarian consequences in the current context.

We also call for the red cross emblem to be respected in all circumstances. The emblem is a symbol of protection and impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian action. The requirements for its use, both in armed conflicts and in other situations of violence, are regulated under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, and, in Colombia, under Laws 142 (passed in 1937) and 875 (passed in 2004).

The red cross emblem may not be used by unauthorized individuals or organizations. Its improper use could put the means of transport and infrastructure it seeks to protect at risk, along with the lives of authorized personnel and the individuals and communities in need of humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, its proper use is vital to ensure that aid reaches those who most need it.

As stated in our report Humanitarian Challenges - 2021, we understand that it is not easy to restore and maintain law and order. We would, however, like to remind the public forces of their responsibility to comply with the existing norms and standards on the use of force in Colombia.

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