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ICRC pulls out of Baghdad

The ICRC Baghdad HQ before the attack in October Keystone

The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross or ICRC has announced that it is to shut several of its offices in Iraq due to concerns over its staff safety.

This content was published on November 8, 2003 - 12:10

The agency said it would be temporarily closing operations in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

“We are temporarily closing our offices in Baghdad and Basra. We are still discussing what to do with our foreign staff. The situation is extremely dangerous and volatile,” said ICRC spokesman, Florian Westphal.

Westphal was confirming a report by the Zurich daily, the Tages Anzeiger, which quoted ICRC head, Jacob Kellenberger, as saying the agency had decided not to operate in Iraq under military protection because it was irreconcilable with its concept of independent humanitarian action.

Westphal said the ICRC would remain in northern Iraq where it would be concentrating on visiting prisoners, re-establishing family contacts and providing emergency aid.

Bombing

The decision follows on from last month's car bombing at the ICRC headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 12 people and prompted the ICRC to reduce its foriegn staff in Iraq on a voluntary basis.

It was the most severe attack on an international organisation since a truck bomb exploded at the United Nations’ headquarters in Baghdad on August 19, killing 22 people, including the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The ICRC, which is neutral and based in Geneva, has been in Iraq since 1980 and has a staff of 30 foreign and 600 Iraqi workers.

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In brief

The neutral, Swiss-run agency was founded in 1863 by the Swiss, Henri Dunant.

The ICRC works mainly to protect the victims of conflict by providing humanitarian assistance, conducting prisoner of war visits and monitoring compliance of the Geneva Conventions.

The ICRC is the custodian of the Geneva Conventions, which outline the rules of law in times of war and occupation, including the protection of civilians.

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