In memories of our colleagues who have lost their lives

15 December 2016

Speech given by Mr Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, Journée du Souvenir, Geneva, Switzerland.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to you all for being present today in Geneva at the headquarters of the ICRC, having responded to our call to unite and walk together.

20 years ago, almost to the day, some of you walked the same path - shocked, angry, but above all, deeply saddened.
A few hours beforehand, you had learnt of the horrendous assassination of 6 delegates in Novye Atagi, Chechnya, in the hospital set up by the ICRC and the Norwegian Red Cross.

Fernanda, Gunnhild, Ingeborg, Nancy, Sheryl and Hans were killed in the middle of the night by unidentified gunmen, who also seriously injured a seventh colleague, Christoph.

Six mois plus tôt déjà, en juin, nous étions éprouvés par la mort brutale de Cédric, Reto et Juan, pris en embuscade dans leur véhicule au Burundi.
L'année 1996 est restée à ce jour comme la plus noire de notre histoire.

20 years have now passed, but the memories and the emotion remain ever-present, as does our incomprehension and indignation. We feel this indignation with each new attack perpetrated against the ICRC, its staff and members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We are outraged by each attack on our colleagues during the exercise of his or her functions:
...in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 15 years ago...
...in Iraq or Afghanistan when our premises were targeted by bombs...
...in Sri Lanka, Libya, Ukraine, Pakistan...
...and in many other places throughout the ICRC's long history of service.

On this day of remembrance, we are grateful and pay tribute to our colleagues, and we offer our deepest respect.

I would particularly like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the families who are here today. We feel with you and are inspired by the example you set. We are honoured to welcome you, and to join you in paying tribute to our parents, colleagues and friends.

Malheureusement, certaines familles qui avaient accepté notre invitation pour ces commémorations n'ont pu faire le voyage. Nos pensées sont pour vous et pour vos proches aussi. Nous ne vous oublions pas.

J'ai aussi une pensée pour tous nos autres collègues qui ont pu être blessés dans leur chair ou dans leur âme et je salue votre force et votre dévouement qui vous permettent de continuer votre mission qui est notre mission.

Because we have one core objective, which forms the very essence of our organization: to assist and protect the people affected by conflict and other situations of violence.

Those we have lost were also driven by the desire to revive hope where it was painfully lacking.

Out of respect for the memory of our friends and family, and out of respect for all of you here today, let us always carry forward our core message, and the driving force of the ICRC. Every life saved, every smile recuperated, is an immensely powerful tribute to the colleagues we honor today.

Like our predecessors for more than 150 years, let us transmit this unique strength to those who will follow in our footsteps tomorrow, so that hope and life will continue to remain our guiding force.

Let us now respect a minute of silence, to remember and pay tribute to the colleagues we have lost.