MILF sad over ICRC’s absence in Sulu

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed sadness over the continued absence  of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu, after three of its delegates were kidnapped by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group ASG) on January 15, 2009.

“We understand their decision to skip Sulu for the moment and it is the correct decision,” Muhammad Ameen, chair of the MILF Secretariat, told www.luwaran.com in an interview today.

However, he regretted that the act of few individuals, whose forte only is kidnapping, is depriving the majority of the people of Sulu of the services of the ICRC particularly on protection of the victims of war.

The ICRC is an impartial, neutral and independent organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance.

It also endeavors to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.

Established in 1863, the ICRC is at the origin of the Geneva Conventions and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It directs and coordinates the international activities conducted by the Movement in armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

Jean-Daniel Tauxe, head of the Philippine ICRC delegation, said recently that not much has changed in Sulu two years after ASG gunmen kidnapped three ICRC workers after they had inspected a jail water sanitary project in Jolo, the provincial capital.

Those abducted were Eugenio Vagni of Italy, Andreas Notter of Switzerland, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba on January 15, 2009.

The three were released in succeeding months one by one – Lacaba and Notter separately in April, and Vagni in July.

“The situation so far which is prevailing will not allow us to take us the risk. If we would leave the people unattended, that will be unacceptable. So far we will not modify that position,” Tauxe said.

The ICRC has worked in the Philippines since 1982.  The group holds office in Manila, Davao, Cotabato, and Zamboanga, with 145 staff including 32 expatriates in the country.

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