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 Report - ICRC Monthly Bulletin, October 2000 (ICRC)

 Report date: 30.09.2000


In October the protection team of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) finished visiting persons deprived of their freedom in Bailov prison. Meanwhile, a further visit to Gobustan prison was carried out. The visits are conducted in accordance with the ICRC standard working procedures. They include private interviews with detainees and discussions of problems raised by the detainees with the authorities. The ICRC will also, in due course, submit a confidential report on the visit to Bailov prison to the authorities.

In the framework of the tuberculosis control project inside the penitentiary system conducted by the Ministry of Justice with the assistance of the ICRC, 580 detainees are presently under DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short Course) treatment.

A third year focusing on orthotic devices commenced in October for 7 students after they graduated from a two-year training course on prosthetics.

In October, the Orthopaedic Centre, operated jointly by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the ICRC, housed 33 patients in its dormitory and delivered 31 prostheses, 6 orthoses. 23 patients (two of them mine victims) were supplied with crutches and sticks and 1 patient received a wheelchair.

A group of 9 third- and forth-year students of Law faculty from "Odlar Yurdu" University visited the ICRC Delegation and became acquainted with the history of the ICRC, its activities all over the world and in the country as well as with the International Humanitarian Law teaching in other Universities of Baku.

An updated description of ICRC activities in Azerbaijan has been prepared in English, Azeri and Russian and it is available for the general public on AzerWeb site (


ICRC condemns grave breaches of international humanitarian law, suspends medical evacuations of wounded combatants

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemns two separate incidents over the past 10 days in which wounded combatants being evacuated by its delegates were seized and summarily executed by men belonging to enemy forces. These acts, which constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law, have obliged the organisation to suspend all medical evacuations of wounded combatants within Colombia until reliable guarantees are obtained from all parties to the conflict.

On 2 October, a wounded combatant of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia was killed in cold blood by members of the Fuerzas Armadas de Colombia (FARC) in the course of a medical evacuation being conducted by the ICRC in Putumayo, southern Colombia. Ten days before, a wounded member of the FARC had been killed in Apartado in similar circumstances by men of the Autodefensas de Cordoba y Uraba.

In both instances, the ICRC had notified all armed groups involved in the conflict of its evacuation plans and obtained from them security guarantees that these humanitarian operations could proceed unhindered.

The ICRC calls on all the warring parties to implement humanitarian law, whose provisions require that those not actively taking part in hostilities be spared, and to respect the red cross emblem and individuals engaged in humanitarian work for the victims of the conflict. Furthermore, international law expressly states that a violation committed by one party does not legitimize similar action by the adversary. Despite its suspension of such evacuations, the ICRC is maintaining all other operations in Colombia.

Thanks to Red Cross Messages, two sisters find each other after 25 years

"Messages of hope" they may be, but for those who are anxious to receive one the wait can be agonising. Searching for a missing relative is one of the cruellest ordeals of war.

Despite the difficulties of working in a country as vast as Angola (twice the size of France), where so many people have been displaced and some areas are off limits for security reasons, the ICRC has finally managed to reunite two sisters who lost touch with each other 25 years ago.

Maria da Graa Palanca threw her arms up in the air several times, speechless with emotion. She had just read a message from her sister Maria-Margarida, from whom she was separated when she was only 18. Today she learned that Maria-Margarida, fleeing the violence that broke out in the country in 1975, had been able to fly to Norway and was still living there.

The ICRC processes tracing requests and collects and delivers red cross messages both in Angola and abroad, especially in neighbouring countries where many Angolans have sought refuge and where ICRC tracing teams are working in close collaboration with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to help them find their missing relatives. A great number of messages are currently being distributed by the ICRC in Huambo, Lobito, Kuito and Luanda and by the Angolan Red Cross in other parts of the country.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Head of ICRC delegation meets President Kostunica

The continuing hardship facing the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) and the urgency of addressing the issue of missing persons were among the key matters discussed when the ICRC's head of delegation in the FRY, Peter G. Stocker, was received last week by President Vojislav Kostunica.

After briefing President Kostunica on the activities of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the country in recent years, Peter Stocker took the opportunity to assure him of the Movement's ongoing commitment to responding to the needs of the country's inhabitants, who have been severely affected by shortages, economic collapse and the consequences of conflict. This situation will doubtless prevail, at least in the short term, despite the new political climate.

Mr Stocker also stressed the crucial importance of providing families with information about the fate of missing relatives so as to end the anguish of uncertainty, and reaffirmed the ICRC's resolve to continue to work towards this humanitarian goal. Another topic covered was the ICRC's activities for people still held in detention.

In response, President Kostunica expressed his full support for the work of the Red Cross in the FRY and stated that the new authorities are seeking ways of dealing with outstanding humanitarian concerns.

In spite of the rapidly changing political situation in the FRY, the ICRC has continued its detention work. Since October 6, over 230 detainees have been visited in five places of detention in Serbia proper, while 20 have been released and transported to Kosovo by the ICRC. Family visits of relatives from Kosovo to Serbia proper and vice versa have also been organized. Around 850 detainees are currently being visited by the ICRC.

Southern Africa
ICRC restores contact between child refugees and their families

"In 1996, I was playing with friends by the river. We saw people coming towards us and they chased us. I was caught, slapped and taken to a car. They told me that from that day onwards I was a member of their family." This is the story told by 12-year-old Ngaba Nagwali (fictitious name), who was abducted from her home village during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when she was eight years old. When the ICRC found her, alone among thousands of refugees, she had been living in a camp in Botswana for the previous four years with no news of her family.

Stories such as Ngaba's are only too common. The loss or break-up of families is one of the most tragic consequences of war, and in these circumstances the ICRC does its utmost to trace missing relatives and reunite families.

Ngaba is one of the lucky children whose story will have a happy ending. She was registered by the ICRC in Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana, and the information she supplied was used to locate her mother in the DRC. Mother and daughter have now asked to be reunited.

In Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi and Mwange refugee camp in Zambia, another 16 unaccompanied children who were registered by the ICRC in 1999 and 2000 have had their families located in Tanzania and the DRC. The families have contacted their children by means of Red Cross messages and have also asked to be reunited with the help of the ICRC.

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