8-06-2007  Interview  

ICRC President: access to captured Israeli soldiers remains a priority

Almost one year after their capture, the fate of three Israeli soldiers – two of them held by the Hezbollah, and one by Palestinian armed factions – still remains unknown, causing distress and anguish to their families. On this occasion, Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, President of the ICRC, talks about the challenge the ICRC is facing trying to get access to persons detained in relation to armed conflicts.

1 – So far, the ICRC did not gain access to the three captured Israeli soldiers, nor was it able to provide a sign of life which would have reassured the families. What efforts is the ICRC deploying towards gaining access to them and ensuring that they are well treated ?

Uncertainty over the fate of a loved one causes immense suffering. Daily our staff around the world are in contact with anguished families who are waiting for news. Families have the right to know about the whereabouts of their relatives who went missing or are detained. Direct access to persons held in relation to armed conflict situations all over the world is a priority for the ICRC in order to independently assess their condition and the treatment they are receiving, and to try and ensure that basic principles of humanity are respected.

We spare no effort towards achieving this goal, including in the case of the three captured Israeli soldiers. Gilad Shalit was captured on 25 June by Palestinian armed factions and Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, on 12 July, by Hezbollah. We immediately informed all parties concerned of our will to visit the soldiers, to provide medical assistance if needed and to establish contacts between them and their family. In Lebanon and in Gaza, we have repeatedly called on those holding the soldiers to treat them humanely with full respect of international humanitarian law, and to allow them to contact their families. Fully aware of the immense despair of the families that have been without news from their sons for almost one year now, the priority for us today is to get at least a sign of life. Despite all ICRC efforts and to my own frustration this has not yet materialised.