Ethiopia: Release of last prisoners of war and civilian internees visited by the ICRC in connection with the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea
29-11-2002 News Release 02/72
Geneva (ICRC) – With the recent release of Eritrean prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian internees, the last detainees from the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea who were registered and regularly visited by the ICRC will now be able to go home.
Among these, 1,225 Eritreans returned to their country on Friday. Nearly two years after the peace agreement was concluded in Algiers on 12 December 2000, they were released by the Ethiopian authorities in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and repatriated under the auspices of the ICRC. This repatriation operation, which lasted several days owing to the long distances involved, represents an important step in implementing the settlement between the two States, which were at war for nearly three years.
ICRC staff based in Ethiopia accompanied the 1 130 POWs and 95 civilian internees on 27 buses as far as the border. Another team of ICRC staff based in Eritrea met them at the crossing point — a bridge over the Mereb river between the towns of Rama, on the Ethiopian side, and Adi Quala, in Eritrea — and handed the detainees over to the Eritrean authorities.
With this important operation, the last POWs and civilian internees visited by the ICRC in Ethiopia were released and repatriated. On 29 August last, Eritrea released the last POWs who had been regularly visited by the ICRC; all 279 of them were repatriated to Ethiopia under ICRC auspices. The ICRC will nevertheless continue to work with both governments on the individual cases that remain unresolved.
Since the beginning of the conflict between the two countries in 1998, no fewer than 1 067 Ethiopian POWs, 5055 Ethiopian civilian internees, 2 067 Eritrean POWs and 1 086 Eritrean civilian internees have been repatriated under ICRC auspices.
The Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions, on the treatment of P OWs and the protection of civilians respectively, were referred to in the Algiers agreement. They stipulate that all POWs and civilian internees must be released and repatriated without delay after the close of hostilities. The ICRC, which promotes the application of and compliance with the Geneva Conventions, was entrusted by the Algiers agreement with the task of supervising the release and repatriation of POWs and other persons detained in connection with the conflict.
Further information: Juan Martinez, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 17
Gianni Volpin, ICRC Addis Abeba, tel. ++25 11 518 366
Marçal Izard, ICRC Asmara, tel. ++29 11 181 130