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Haiti: ICRC calls for respect for international humanitarian law

13-02-2004 News Release 04/10

Geneva / Port-au-Prince (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is concerned about the consequences in humanitarian terms of the current situation in Haiti following the recent escalation of violence.

In accordance with its mandate, the ICRC reminds those involved in the hostilities of their obligation to respect international humanitarian law.

In particular, they must distinguish at all times between the civilian population and those taking direct part in the fighting. Attacks aimed at the civilian population as such or at individual civilians are prohibited.

Persons not directly participating in the clashes – including those who surrender or who are no longer capable of fighting because they are wounded, sick or captured, or for any other reason – may not be attacked and must be treated humanely. Their lives must be spared in all circumstances.

The hospitals in Port-au-Prince and other cities are receiving wounded people in urgent need of medical care. Many medical facilities, however, are not functioning because staff fear for their own safety. The situation is also preventing sorely needed medical supplies from being delivered by humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC.

The ICRC is particularly concerned about repeated cases of armed persons entering medical facilities. These incursions are posing a growing threat to medical staff and patients alike. Many victims of the violence and other people in need of medical attention are not receiving it because, fearing for their safety, they are reluctant to be treated in hospitals. The ICRC calls on all those involved in the violence to facilitate the work of impartial humanitarian organizations, in particular by granting them access to the victims. Safety and freedom of movement must be guaranteed to all medical staff and Red Cross personnel attempting to come to the aid of the civilia n population, the sick and wounded and persons no longer capable of fighting.

The ICRC currently has 17 staff (locally recruited and expatriate) working in Haiti in close conjunction with the Haitian National Red Cross Society to come to the aid of the victims. The ICRC is in touch with those involved in the hostilities and is working in its capacity as an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose purpose is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and other situations of violence.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Felipe Donoso, ICRC Haiti, tel. ++ 509 256 78 24  

 Adolfo Beteta, ICRC Mexico,  tel. ++ 5255 52 55 43 55  

 Eros Bosisio, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++ 41 22 730 21 01