ICRC to send humanitarian assistance to conflict area
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is preparing to fly 15 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies to Georgia early this week to help treat people injured in the international armed conflict between Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian troops.
The chartered flight from Geneva is also expected to include material for a water-treatment plant and distribution tanks capable of holding safe drinking water for around 20,000 people.
As the violence spreads beyond South Ossetia, the ICRC is hearing reports of an increasing number of civilian casualties. "The humanitarian situation remains very serious," said Dominique Liengme, the ICRC's head of delegation in Georgia. "An ICRC assessment team that managed to visit the Georgian town of Gori has confirmed that many people have fled. We are also hearing reports of widespread displacement throughout the region."
"So far, the ICRC has not been able to gain access to South Ossetia. This remains a priority for us," she continued. "The fighting has been too intense for us to move around or distribute assistance, so we are continuing to call for unimpeded and safe access to all areas affected by the conflict."
In North Ossetia, the organization is working with the Russian authorities to distribute aid to displaced people fleeing South Ossetia.
The ICRC has officially reminded Georgia and Russia of their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and distinguish at all times between the civilian population and those taking a direct part in the hostilities. The four Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocol I and the customary rules and principles of international humanitarian law are all applicable in this situation.
Indiscriminate or direct attacks on civilians are strictly prohibited under humanitarian law. The wounded and sick are entitled to medical care. People who are not directly participating in the hostilities – including those who surrender or who are no longer able to fight because they are wounded, sick or have been captured – must not be attacked and must be treated humanely.
The ICRC is striving to gain access to persons detained in connection with the conflict, including two Russian pilots who were wounded and are being held by the Georgian authorities. It is also seeking to repatriate the body of a Russian pilot who was killed in recent fighting.
The ICRC has a delegation in Tbilisi, an office in Zugdidi (Western Georgia) and a small team in Gori. Additional staff are expected to arrive in Georgia in the coming days. In the northern Caucasus, the ICRC has a sub-delegation in Nalchik and offices in Khassaviurt, Grozny, Nazran and Vladikavkaz.
The ICRC expects shortly to launch a preliminary appeal for funding in response to the worsening humanitarian situation.
[Source: ICRC, Tbilisi and Geneva, 11Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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