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Colombia : Activities during 2001


 Visits to detainees  

The ICRC visits persons detained in connection with the armed conflict in order to assess the treatment they are receiving and the physical conditions under which they are being held. We make confidential approaches to the authorities, to ensure that treatment and conditions are in accordance with international humanitarian law.

In addition to visiting places of detention, the ICRC runs an assistance programme for detainees, supplying items to help improve their conditions, such as toiletries and recreational materials. The ICRC finances visits by families to places of detention, helping to maintain links between the detainees and their families.

Currently, the ICRC does not have access to persons detained by guerrilla organizations in connection with the conflict. However, in June 2001 we did participate in the liberation of 359 members of the security forces held by the FARC.

 Protecting the civilian population  

The ICRC documents such violations of international humanitarian law as selective executions, the disappearance of civilians, the taking of hostages, threats and displacements of the population. We present our findings to those believed to be responsible, in an effort to change the behaviour of the armed organizations.

This protection work is carried out by delegates, mainly in the field, so as to maintain regular contact with the parties to the conflict and those who are suffering as a result of it.

When the a rmed organizations take hostages, the ICRC fulfils its role as a neutral intermediary, acting purely on humanitarian grounds, to re-establish contact between hostages and their families via Red Cross messages. We can also provide medical assistance and be present when hostages are released.

 Humanitarian assistance  

The large number of people suffering as a result of the armed conflict has prompted the ICRC to set up assistance programmes. Working from its own assessments of need, the ICRC provides emergency food and non-food aid to displaced individuals and groups.

We are also supporting projects to improve the living conditions of people who have been resettled or who have returned to their homes. In addition, we are assisting resident populations that have been the victims of violence, such as attacks.

While emergency assistance takes top priority, the ICRC is also running various types of project aimed at helping people who are trying to improve their living conditions. These projects include the “Quick Impact Projects”, or QIPs, which are carried out in cooperation with the people we are assisting and are aimed at improving infrastructure, such as schools and health centres. In 2001, the ICRC launched 29 new projects and a further 29 projects started in 2000 were completed. Together, these projects have helped over 45,000 people.

To prevent duplication of effort and to ensure that all needs are covered, the ICRC coordinates its work with other humanitarian agencies, such as the Social Security Network (the Red de Solidaridad Social , RSS), which is the state organization responsible for looking after displaced persons. By working together, we are able to harmonize different agencies’ efforts both in terms of the type of assistance offered (food, non-food, hou sing, psychosocial, education, provision of identity documents, etc.) and in terms of timing (emergency, transitional or rehabilitation phases). In addition, the ICRC has been providing technical advice since 1999 to the “decentralized responsibility structures” of the RSS, i.e. the organizations working in the field.

 See ICRC emergency humanitarian aid 2001 (tables and graphs).  

 Health programmes  

The ICRC provides medical assistance to victims of the armed conflict who are unable to access basic state health services or who require additional treatment.

We provide six months’ assistance to displaced persons and up to two years’ assistance to injured civilians.

For the residents of areas affected by conflict, we are facilitating access to primary health care using mobile health units, in the regions of Atrato, Urabá, Caguán, Caquetá, Occidente de Putumayo and Sur de Bolívar.

 Promoting international humanitarian law  

To promote compliance with international humanitarian law, the ICRC works with such groups as parties to the conflict, the authorities, the media and the civilian population.

The ICRC also advises the Colombian authorities on the integration of international humanitarian law into national legislation.

The ICRC is promoting the inclusion of international humanitarian law into the training programmes and operating procedures of the armed forces and the police. We are also training military and police instructors to teach the rules of war to the armed forces and the police.

ICRC delegates use their contacts with armed organization s operating on the edge of the law to promote the rules and principles of international humanitarian law via talks and workshops.

The ICRC is also teaching international humanitarian law to university professors, so that they can include the material in their academic activities. We also participate in postgraduate courses, seminars and conferences.

Working in conjunction with the Colombian Red Cross, the ICRC is running international humanitarian law projects aimed at the security forces, young people and the civilian population in areas affected by the armed conflict.

The ICRC conducts international humanitarian law workshops for journalists and supplies them with information to extend their knowledge of international humanitarian law. We also give talks to students of journalism.

 ICRC offices  

To enable our delegates to assist the victims of the armed conflict, the ICRC maintains a headquarters in Bogotá and ten operational offices, in Apartadó, Barrancabermeja, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cúcuta, Florencia, Medellín, Pasto, Popayán, Puerto Asís, Saravena, Sincelejo, Valledupar, Villavicencio and Yopal.



 March 1969: The Colombian government authorizes the ICRC to visit persons detained in connection with the armed conflict (security detainees).

 May 1980: Colombia and the ICRC sign a Headquarters Agreement, ratified by Law No. 42, 1981.

 November 1990: The Colombian authorities agree to the ICRC facilitating the release of security forces personnel captured by guerrillas.

 August 1991: The police agree to notify the ICRC of persons detained in connection with the armed conflict.

 October 1991: The Coordinadora Guerrillera Simón Bolívar (Simón Bolívar guerrilla movement coordinating body) agrees to notify the ICRC of persons detained by the guerrilla organizations linked to it.

 November 1994: The government authorizes the ICRC to contact the guerrilla movements, but rejects any contact between the ICRC and the self-defence groups, or autodefensas .

 February 1996: Additional Protocol II comes into force in Colombia. The government and the ICRC sign a memorandum of understanding allowing the ICRC to go anywhere in the country, maintain contact (for humanitarian purposes) with any armed organization and provide humanitarian assistance to all civilians affected by the conflict.

 February 1996: The military and civilian authorities agree to notify the ICRC of detainees accused of political offences and to allow the ICRC access to both permanent and temporary places of detention.

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