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Bosnia-Herzegovina: ICRC calls on belligerents to reach a minimum consensus on humanitarian issues

16-06-1995 News Release 95/24

Geneva (ICRC) - Prompted by the current crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Cornelio Sommaruga, convened a meeting of the diplomatic representatives of the 15 Member States of the United Nations Security Council in Geneva today, 16 June 1995, to express the ICRC's deep concern about the plight of the civilian population. He informed the diplomats of an ICRC appeal addressed the same day to the parties to the conflict urging them to reach, unconditionally and without delay, a minimum consensus on humanitarian issues that transcends their differences.

The text of the appeal is as follows:

" Once again the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina is extremely serious. The fighting has steadily escalated ever since the cease-fire expired at the end of April and no tangible progress has been made towards a political settlement. As a result, humanitarian needs have reached overwhelming proportions. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by the events in the Visoko area, there seems to be no prospect of improvement. On the contrary, the outlook is bleaker than ever and civilians continue to be the main victims.

Each day indiscriminate shelling kills more and more people trapped in towns under siege. In Tuzla, Sarajevo and Gorazde, in Doboj and Kalinovik, children, elderly people and even the wounded and sick in hospitals are taken as targets. Faced with this unspeakable horror, the population has no choice but to try to survive by hiding in the ruins, terrified and destitute, as in Sarajevo and Gorazde, or to flee, as others have done in the Ozran and Grahovo mountains.

For weeks now, almost all convoys carrying urgently needed food and medical assistance for civilians and the wounded have been held up by the belligerents. In many places, living conditions for civilians taking no part in the hostilities have reached a critical level. The airlift to Sarajevo has been suspended for ten weeks - twice as long as any previous interruption - while one third of the civilian population is dependent on food aid from outside. Hospitals are admitting increasing numbers of casualties and medical supplies are running out. In the city, water, gas and electricity have been cut off. In these circumstances, the ICRC has been obliged to suspend its food distribution programmes in schools and in the network of community kitchens.

In view of this unacceptable situation, for which all the military and political authorities of the parties to the conflict bear some responsibility, the ICRC appeals to the parties'sense of humanity and urges them to restore among themselves, unconditionally and without delay, a minimum humanitarian consensus that transcends their differences.

The ICRC asks the belligerents to take the following measures immediately, in accordance with international humanitarian law:

1.  restore the water supply to Sarajevo and its suburbs;

2. allow the unhindered movement of convoys of emergency medical supplies intended for the treatment of all wounded without discrimination;

3.  allow the unhindered movement of aid convoys operating in an impartial and neutral manner to bring food supplies to the civilian population;

4.  issue instructions that the civilian population be spared the effects of the fighting, in particular by putting a stop to indiscriminate firing on civilians.

In the spirit of this appeal, the ICRC invites all the parties to join it at once in seeking, in a strictly humanitarian framework, a minimum consensus on humane behaviour. The ICRC must be able to rely on such a commitment in its resolve to pursue its activities in the field. The survival of thousands of civilians is at stake. "