Colombia admits Red Cross emblem used in hostage rescue

July 17th, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by IANS  


Bogota, July 17 (IANS) Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has admitted the unauthorised use of the Red Cross insignia during the July 2 hostage rescue mission. It has evoked strong protest from the global organisation. “Accepting responsibility is the only way to build confidence,” EFE news agency quoted the president as saying Wednesday after the government initially denied the CNN report.

The news broadcaster said it had been offered a video and photographs “by military sources” in which soldiers’ uniforms with symbols of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) could reportedly be seen but refused to buy the images as their authenticity could not be verified.

“We regret that this occurred. Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos and the top commanders met this morning with the representative of the ICRC to give him an explanation and express (our) apologies,” Uribe said.

The ICRC delegation in Bogota said in a statement following Uribe’s public admission that the Red Cross insignia “have to be respected under all circumstances and cannot be used in an abusive manner”.

Uribe said a military officer taking part in the mission had used the insignia “out of nervousness”.

“As a guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC reminds (the Colombian government) that the use of the Red Cross emblem is specifically regulated by the Geneva Conventions and additional protocols,” the written statement added.

An army commando July 2 rescued 15 hostages from a hideout of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by posing as fellow rebels sent by rebel high command to transport the hostages to another location.

The most prominent among the rescued hostages were former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

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