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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC calls for respect for civilians in North Kivu

26-01-2009 News Release 09/18

Kinshasa / Geneva (ICRC) – In connection with the ongoing military operation in North Kivu, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminds all parties that they are obliged by international humanitarian law to preserve the lives and dignity of the civilian population and of people wounded or captured during the fighting.

Furthermore, the parties to the conflict are under an obligation to respect civilian property and items essential to the survival of the civilian population, such as food, livestock, water installations and water reserves. Attacks on these items are strictly prohibited, as is looting.

In particular, women and minors must be protected against harm and against attacks on their honour, especially rape and other forms of sexual violence. Children enjoy particular protection and must be respected. One aspect of this is that it is illegal to recruit them into armed forces or armed groups, or to have them take part in hostilities.

" Civilians have paid and continue to pay a heavy tribute to the armed conflicts in the region, " said Max Hadorn, head of the ICRC delegation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. " Entire families have been overcome with grief and thrust apart. The suffering could be avoided if the parties to the conflict complied with international humanitarian law. "

It is essential that the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo be able to help the civilian population. This requires that the parties to the conflict facilitate the access of humanitarian organizations to the people affected and allow the unimpeded passage of relief consignments. The red cross emblem, staff carrying out relief operations and any material or equipment being used for those operations must be respected and protected in all circumstances.

  For further information, please contact:
  Olga Miltcheva, ICRC Goma, tel +243 81 03 66 812
  Inah Kaloga, ICRC Kinshasa, tel +243 81 700 85 36
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17