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Sudan/Chad: ICRC presses for release of abducted staff members

12-11-2009 Interview

Two ICRC staff members were abducted in the past weeks: Gauthier Lefèvre was abducted in West Darfur, Sudan, on 22 October, and Laurent Maurice was abducted in eastern Chad on 9 November. The ICRC's head of operations for East Africa, Daniel Duvillard, speaks about how the organization is dealing with these crises.


Daniel Duvillard, the ICRC's head of operations for East Africa    
   What is the latest information you have on Gauthier and Laurent?  

We have managed to have phone contacts with the abductors of both of our staff. We also managed to speak directly with Gauthier and Laurent. They both say that they are in good health. That is already reassuring under the circumstances. At this point we do not know if there is a link between the two incidents, but we are obviously shocked and very sad. We appreciate how difficult the situation is for Gauthier's and Laurent's families and friends. We are in regular contact with them, and we are doing everything we can to give them the support they need.

 Who is behind the abductions? Have there been ransom demands?  

We don't know exactly who is behind the abductions or what their motives are, and we don't want to speculate. We did receive a ransom demand for Gauthier but, as a matter of policy, the ICRC does not pay out ransom money. The ICRC will continue to do its best through its regular channels of communication to bring about Gauthier's and Laurent's release. Their safety and welfare are our abiding concern.

 How did the abductions actually happen?  

Gauthier, the head of the ICRC office in Al Geneina, West Darfur, was returning with other ICRC colleagu es to Al Geneina from a field trip north of the town to help local communities upgrade their water supply systems. He was travelling in one of two clearly marked ICRC vehicles when he was seized by several armed men around mid-day local time on 22 October. Laurent, an agronomist, was abducted on 9 November around 9 p.m. local time. He was in the area to evaluate the most recent harvest. He was spending the night in Kawa, where the ICRC is supporting a primary health-care centre, with five of his Chadian colleagues.

 Has the ICRC suspended its activities in Sudan and Chad?  

We have temporarily suspended activities in West Darfur and in eastern Chad. In fact, we are deeply concerned for the populations affected by the armed conflicts in Chad and in Darfur: they are the ones who will without doubt suffer the consequences of the sudden interruption of the ICRC's activities. Together with the Sudanese Red Crescent, the Chadian Red Cross and other members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the ICRC is striving to ensure that vital aid reaches those in need. Respect for humanitarian workers is essential to achieving this objective.

See also the latest update on ICRC activities in Sudan.