Red Cross Clarifies Position on Colombian Conflict

News from Colombia | on: Saturday, 19 January 2008

Despite assertions by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that there is no conflict in Colombia, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) has made clear that they believe that there is indeed a war raging and that the Geneva Convention needs to be applied by both sides something that President Uribe, who argues that the country is actually under "terrorist threat", is loathed to admit.

In a January 17th interview with Argentinean newspaper 'Pagina 12', Yves Heller, the spokesperson of the ICRC in Colombia says that "in Colombia there is an armed conflict" and that the war is between the State and "armed groups" that are organised, control territory and have an organised military command structure. For this reason, says Heller, "as far as the ICRC is concerned, Protocol 2 of the Geneva Convention should be applied in the Colombian conflict."

President Uribe, who claims that the State is battling "terrorists", is thought to fear that acknowledging the existence of an armed conflict would limit the ability of his security forces to fight against the FARC guerrilla group. The Geneva Conventions could also open the way to the FARC being classified as a 'belligerent force', something that successive Colombian Governments have tried to prevent.

The Red Cross has been present in Colombia since 1981 although much of their humanitarian work is carried out discretely including their role in recent hostage releases. Other organisations with a presence in Colombia include the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, as well as a host of humanitarian agencies.

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