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Irian Jaya, Indonesia: ICRC limits its role to giving aid to hostages

09-05-1996 News Release 96/17

Geneva (ICRC) - On Thursday 9 May, after repeated attempts to secure the release on humanitarian grounds of 11 hostages held for more than four months by the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka - OPM), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided to abandon its role as neutral intermediary between the parties. After the failure of today's final attempt to have the hostages freed, the ICRC delegates left Guezelema and informed the Indonesian, British and Netherlands authorities of the results of their latest discussions. The ICRC will stay on in Irian Jaya to provide medical assistance to the hostages - five Indonesian, four British and two Netherlands nationals - and will remain at the parties'disposal.

On 9 February last, at the request of all the parties concerned, the ICRC's regional delegation in Jakarta agreed to act as a neutral intermediary in order to facilitate and maintain dialogue among the parties and to provide the hostages with humanitarian aid.

ICRC delegates were able to visit the hostages for the first time on 29 February, taking them food, clothing and medicines. An ICRC doctor monitored their health, and letters and photos of the hostages were forwarded to their families. Further visits took place on 26 and 27  March, 17 April and 5 May.

The ICRC regrets having had to take this decision, in particular because of its concern for the health of the hostages, who are living in difficult conditions. It feels, however, that the conditions for dispassionate discussion no longer exist.

The ICRC draws attention to the fact that the taking of hostages is contrary to the principles of i nternational humanitarian law and reiterates its request to the OPM for the unconditional release of all the hostages on humanitarian grounds.