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Myanmar: ICRC deeply worried about the fate of those arrested

15-10-2007 Interview

The ICRC is deeply worried about the fate of those detained in connection with recent events in Myanmar, says the organization's director of operations, Pierre Krähenbühl. He says efforts will continue to restore a meaningful dialogue with the authorities concerning both the current situation and violations of international humanitarian law raised publicly in June.

A large number of people have been arrested in Myanmar following the recent demonstrations. What is the ICRC's reaction?  

The ICRC is deeply worried about the fate of thousands of people who have reportedly been arrested in connection with recent events in Myanmar. We have been contacted by dozens of worried families asking for help to locate their relatives who have reportedly been detained or are missing.

The ICRC is seeking access to recently detained persons in order to assess their conditions of t reatment and detention according to its usual procedures and help them resume contact with their anxious families.

What has the ICRC done to obtain access to detainees?  

We have been trying to re-establish a meaningful dialogue with the government to address the most urgent humanitarian problems, particularly the issue of access to detainees and those injured during recent events. We regret that our efforts have not yet produced any tangible results but we remain determined to pursue them.

The ICRC has been very outspoken in its criticism of the Myanmar authorities recently. What were the reasons for this decision?  

The ICRC's objective everywhere is to help victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence quickly and effectively and to work towards the respect of International Humanitarian Law. From 1999 to 2005 the ICRC was active in Myanmar and observed improvements in several areas of humanitarian concern. But to achieve long-lasting results, it needs to have an efficient channel of dialogue with the authorities in Myanmar and be allowed to work as a strictly neutral and independent humanitarian organization. In Myanmar, this has not been the case over the past two years. Since December 2005, the government has been imposing increasing restrictions on our humanitarian activities, effectively making it impossible to continue the delivery of essential aid to thousands of detainees and civilians in need along the Thai-Myanmar border.

In addition, the ICRC has documented significant and repeated violations of International Humanitarian Law and has c onsistently tried to engage the authorities in a serious discussion with a view to putting a stop to them.

 What will the ICRC's next step be?  

We will not spare any effort in trying to restore a substantial dialogue with the government of Myanmar with the aim of addressing violations of international humanitarian law publicly raised on 29 June (see press release) and humanitarian issues connected with recent violent events.




Pierre Krahenbuehl

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