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Hostages crisis in Peru: ICRC takes humanitarian action

19-12-1996 News Release 96/39

Geneva (ICRC) - The head of the International Committee of the Red  Cross  (ICRC) delegation in Peru, Michel Minnig, was among the guests invited to attend the reception held at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima when it was taken over by members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) on Wednesday.

The ICRC immediately offered its services to help resolve problems of a humanitarian nature arising from this crisis. Michel Minnig quickly succeeded in securing the release of some 250  women and elderly persons and about 50 men, including domestic staff. He later arranged for medical supplies, food and water and toiletries to be brought into the residence to improve conditions for the people inside. ICRC delegates also drew up a list of hostages (some 380  people) and collected messages from them to deliver to their anxious families. The delegates are able to enter and leave the residence freely to carry out their humanitarian work.

The ICRC has been asked by the Peruvian government and the MRTA to act as a neutral intermediary in the negotiations undertaken to resolve the crisis. It has already handed over to the authorities a document written by members of the armed group and signed by the hostages. At present the ICRC is continuing to talk with both sides, but is not taking an active part in the negotiations. In this type of situation the ICRC asks the parties to undertake the firm commitment not to resort to force or take any steps that may harm the hostages or hamper its delegates'freedom of movement during the time in which it is involved. Moreover, the ICRC assumes no responsibility with regard to proposals passed on, decisions made or action taken. It can in no circumstances guarantee that decisions made or conditions set by the parties will be observed.

A crisis unit has been set up at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. It is in constant contact with the delegation in Lima and is closely following developments in the situation.

The ICRC has been working in Peru on a permanent basis since 1984. At present it is visiting over 4,000 security detainees, including imprisoned members of the MRTA, to check on their conditions of detention and treatment. It also takes action in behalf of the civilian population affected by the conflict.