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Syria: ICRC calls for respect for human life

21-04-2011 Interview

With several Syrian cities in the grip of protests and violence, Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo, the ICRC's head of operations for the Near and Middle East, speaks about ICRC support for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the challenges ahead.

What are the main concerns arising from the current situation in Syria?

Protests and violence have reportedly resulted in a large number of fatalities and injuries. The ICRC is concerned that more lives might be lost if the violence continues.

At this point, the ICRC urges all those engaged in the violence to respect human life and dignity at all times and to exercise maximum restraint.

Medical personnel and Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers providing first aid and evacuating victims must be allowed to carry out their life-saving tasks. Access to the injured must not be arbitrarily obstructed. Their ambulances, vehicles, and facilities must be respected by all while they perform their humanitarian duties.

What action is the ICRC taking?

The ICRC has been coordinating its response with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, its main partner, which coordinates humanitarian activities in the country. So far, the Red Crescent has been able to reach the protest areas, provide first aid and evacuate some of the injured. Volunteers are doing their best in very difficult circumstances to bring care to everyone who needs it.

The ICRC has delivered urgently needed supplies such as first aid kits, stretchers and emergency response equipment to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Plans are afoot to provide Red Crescent volunteers with further training. Our organization stands ready to do more both for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and for the country's medical services if needed.

We also stand ready to provide expertise and assistance in detainee-related matters, as we have done in other countries in the region and beyond. We are already visiting detainees in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria – to mention just a few of the places where we carry out activities of this kind. Our findings and observations are shared solely with the authorities concerned.

Is it dangerous for volunteers and others providing care to perform their tasks?

Emergency personnel are often the first to arrive at the scene of violence. It is critical that they be allowed to perform their tasks without delay and in safety.

Medical staff and Red Crescent personnel are protected under both domestic and international law.

Obviously, the aim of first responders is to treat the injured and, if necessary, take them to hospital. Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that those who need life-saving medical care receive it.

What else does the ICRC do in Syria?

The ICRC has been working in Syria since Israel first occupied the Golan, in 1967. It focuses on alleviating the effects of occupation on Syrian citizens in the Golan, helping Syrians and Iraqis in Syria to restore and maintain contact with their families abroad, visiting Syrians detained abroad, and providing clean drinking water for some of the most vulnerable communities in the drought-stricken north-east.

The ICRC also endeavours to raise awareness of international humanitarian law within the government, the military, academia and elsewhere.



Béatrice Mégevand-Roggo