International Red Cross laments Falluja abuses

By Frances Williams in Geneva

Financial Times

Published: November 20 2004

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday called in the strongest terms for both sides fighting in Falluja and elsewhere in Iraq to comply with the rules of war laid out in the Geneva conventions and bring violators to justice.

The ICRC said this week's killing of a wounded insurgent in Falluja - caught on video - and the execution of hostage Margaret Hassan were acts of "utter contempt" for human life and dignity that shocked the world.

"For the parties to this conflict, complying with international humanitarian law is an obligation, not an option," said Pierre Krähenbühl, the ICRC's operations director.

The Geneva-based ICRC, which maintains a strictly neutral stance between belligerents, is mandated under the Geneva conventions to protect civilians and those no longer able to fight.

Antonella Notari, ICRC spokeswoman, said the organisation wanted to make clear to the world "what we stand for".

The statement notes there is "an absolute prohibition on the killing of persons who are not taking active part in the hostilities" and "the parties to the conflict must provide adequate medical care for the wounded - friend or foe."

It goes on to say that "the taking of hostages, whether Iraqi or foreign, is forbidden in all circumstances".

The ICRC was forced to withdraw its international staff from Iraq after the bombing of its Baghdad base last year, but is still running operations with Iraqi staff.