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Developing situation in Afghanistan: ICRC meets urgent needs

15-11-2001 News Release 01/54

Geneva (ICRC) – After the fall of Kabul and the recent military developments in Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is currently focusing its efforts on two main areas of activity: bringing emergency assistance to all persons affected by the recent fighting, and meeting its obligation to provide protection in a conflict situation that has become extremely volatile. These two operational priorities were set forth and illustrated at a press conference given today in Geneva by Jean-Michel Monod, ICRC Delegate-General for Asia and Latin America.

Monod declared that the ICRC is concerned by allegations, received from several sources, of executions of prisoners and wounded persons no longer taking part in the hostilities. Accordingly, one of the main tasks of ICRC delegates returning to Kabul and the surrounding area will be to engage in a frank and direct dialogue with the various warring parties to remind them of their obligations under international humanitarian law. This body of law requires combatants to spare all persons not taking part in the hostilities, to care for the wounded and to respect human dignity in all circumstances. In addition, it prohibits all forms of reprisals and summary executions.

Another urgent task for ICRC delegates resulting from the recent events is to arrange for the collection of the dead, so that they may be buried with dignity and according to Muslim ritual. In addition, as part of its protection activities, the ICRC hopes that its delegates will be able to visit all persons detained by the parties to the conflict at the earliest opportunity.

In view of the possibility that major population movements may take place in Afghanistan, which is known to be one of the most mine-infested countries in the world, the ICRC would like to resume its mine-awareness activities without delay. It is also preparing to deal with the needs of family members separated by the conflict and seeking to re-establish contact with one another by means of Red Cross messages.

The ICRC continues to give priority to providing health facilities (hospitals, clinics and first-aid posts) with medicines and other medical supplies, particularly those needed for treating the war-wounded, as it has done over the past weeks. An expanded medical staff of up to 40 people is being dispatched to various places throughout the country. The ICRC is also distributing food, plastic sheeting and blankets to the neediest civilians so as to help them cope with the harsh Afghan winter.

In addition to nearly 1,000 Afghan staff, the ICRC has around 10 delegates working in the country. These numbers will be quickly increased. Discussions are currently under way with the various commanders to allow delegates to enter rural areas without delay.

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