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Now Reading: NEUTRALITY | Red Cross defends evacuation of wounded rebels in Mindanao as part of its humanitarian role
NEUTRALITY | Red Cross defends evacuation of wounded rebels in Mindanao as part of its humanitarian role
May 31, 2020 , 04:49 PM

By Manny Mogato

MAY 31, 2020 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Sunday defended the evacuation of two wounded Maoist-led guerrillas in a southern island after its neutrality was questioned in social media.

In a statement, the ICRC said the medical evacuation carried out in Surigao del Sur on Friday was strictly on humanitarian concerns and “was coordinated according to usual operating procedure”.

“The medical transport of wounded individuals was organized with a single humanitarian objective — to bring them to a health facility that can provide the appropriate medical care for their situation,” said Boris Michel, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, “This action by the ICRC, with assistance of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), was in fulfilment of our mission to prevent and alleviate suffering during armed conflict.”

The ICRC was forced to issue a statement after several social media posts assailed the humanitarian group for helping the communist New People’s Army. Some of the social media accounts were known sites for anti-NPA and could be linked to some army officers.

Under international humanitarian law (IHL), or the law of armed conflict, the ICRC said wounded and sick fighters who are no longer able to fight, regardless of what side they belong to, are entitled to the medical care and treatment required by their condition.

The ICRC said it does not have emergency medical services and it only transports wounded or sick persons when requested by a party to the conflict to evacuate wounded persons from a conflict-affected area to a health facility with the required level of medical and surgical services.

The PRC, their primary partner in the Philippines that follows the same humanitarian principles, assisted in this medical evacuation through their first responders and emergency medical services.

The ICRC also said the humanitarian convoy transporting the wounded individuals was stopped at checkpoints manned by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), and was allowed to pass after being checked by the personnel on the ground and with consent of their respective hierarchy.

Under the law of armed conflict, an ambulance carrying a wounded or sick person may be checked but must be allowed to pass to ensure rapid access to medical care.

“As a neutral organization, we will not interfere with subsequent actions by the authorities that may include investigations or arrests make sure that all parties to the conflict understand our role and our limitations as well,” the ICRC statement said, “Nevertheless, in case a person is detained in relation to armed conflict, the ICRC would continue to monitor the situation of the detainee, in accordance with our fundamental mandate.”

The ICRC has been working in the Philippines since World War II, establishing a permanent presence in 1982.

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