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ICRC activities in Iraq - interview with Walter Stocker

23-07-2003 Interview

Walter Stocker has just ended his assignment as the ICRC's deputy head of delegation in Baghdad. He gave this interview the day before the tragic killing of ICRC technician Nadisha Yasassri Ranmuthu south of Baghdad.

 1.What are the ICRC's current priorities in Iraq ?  
The priority is definitely in the protection field, although up until now the ICRC is very much involved in quick-fix operations, particularly in the field of water and sanitation and in the health sector where we still try, let's say, to support, public services in these fields, so that they can at least deliver a minimum of services to the population. But in the protection field, of course, it is going to be enormous in terms of, let's say, the challenge that will be for the ICRC. We are talking here first of all detention, detention visits, the responsibilities of the ICRC in the field of detention is of course to ensure that the provisions of the Geneva Conventions which protect all the detainees are being applied by the detaining authorities, which in this case would be the occupying power. We are looking of course into the material conditions of detention, but also in terms of the treatment of detainees and prisoners, so this of course does include prisoners of war, civilian internees, but also common law prisoners who are held in facilities under the authority of the authorities. Another aspect in protection is, of course, the whole missing people question, and here we are talking about hundreds of thousands of missing people from three wars and from the whole period under the Saddam Hussein government. So there ICRC is just in the beginning of putting up project programmes in respect to resolving some of these issues concerning the missing people. We are also talking of course about protection of the civilian population. That means the application of the fourth Geneva Convention and let us say Iraq under occupation and the responsibilities of the occupying powers.
 2.What contribution is being made by the ICRC's partners in the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement?  
The Red Cross, Red Crescent movement activities in Iraq at present of course we have on one hand the ICRC operations, but we are also working very closely with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society of course did suffer from the events over the last few months, together with the International Federation, the ICRC, we have embarked on a reform and restructuring process for the national society. But in parallel to this, the national society is already active on joint programmes with the ICRC in the field of tracing, also in terms of let's say, programmes - mortal remains, let's say exhumation and bringing back mortal remains to the families, but then also in the programmes expulsive remnants of war, awareness programmes where different branches of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society are involved. Concerning the partner national societies, we have of course had a big implication already of these national societies, together with the ICRC and there are now between 20 and 25 different nationalities working as delegates for the ICRC. There have also been direct contributions, material contributions to the ICRC operations and furthermore, there are now several programmes, projects, which are being taken up by national societies, particularly in the health, water and construction sectors.

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