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Syria: ICRC president concludes visit amid relentless fighting

07-09-2012 News Release 12/179

Geneva (ICRC) – Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has just returned from Syria following a three-day visit during which he held talks with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the ministers of foreign affairs, the interior, health and national reconciliation. Mr Maurer also visited areas affected by the fighting in Rural Damascus to witness at first hand how civilians are coping in a context of extreme violence.

"I was shocked by the immense destruction of infrastructure and homes in several areas I visited in Mu’dhamiya, Qaboun and Harasta. And I was deeply moved by the stories of distraught children who lost their parents in the fighting," said Mr Maurer. "I visited several medical posts in Rural Damascus and was alarmed by the situation there. Health workers face tremendous difficulties in performing their duties. Many men, women and children who could be saved are dying on a daily basis because they lack access to medical care. Volunteers of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent continue to show admirable courage as they carry out their life-saving work in extremely difficult conditions. Health-care facilities and workers must be protected."

"Since the conflict erupted there have been many casualties, and now the situation is rapidly deteriorating even further," he said. "President al-Assad agreed on the necessity of urgently boosting humanitarian aid by making it easier to bring in goods that would enable us to step up our activities and adequately respond to the needs that have been growing with gathering speed."

"I also discussed with President al-Assad our outstanding request to visit all persons detained in Syria in connection with the current events – persons held in all facilities, including those managed by the security authorities and those used for interrogation. President al-Assad expressed his readiness to address this issue," said the ICRC president. "Since March 2011, tens of thousands of people have been detained in the country. Their basic rights must be upheld and they must be able to get in touch with their families."

"The positive commitments I received during my meetings will obviously have to be followed up and tested in the coming weeks," said Mr Maurer. "Each day that passes brings more casualties and human suffering. I will personally pay the closest attention to how the outcome of our discussions materializes on the ground."

"The rules of international humanitarian law must be adhered to by all parties to the conflict to avoid civilian loss of life," he said. "It is the responsibility of the parties to protect civilians in their conduct of hostilities."

The ICRC is also in regular contact with opposition groups in Syria and abroad to share its concerns and discuss issues relating to compliance with international humanitarian law and to the protection of civilians and detainees.

The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been working together to meet the most pressing needs. Both organizations must endeavour to find ways of enhancing their work in the field. The ICRC and Syrian Arab Red Crescent will continue to spare no effort to bring help to those who need it.

For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 993 700 847 or +963 11 331 0476
Cecilia Goin, ICRC Damascus, tel: +963 930 177 746 or +963 11 331 0476
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26


Photos

ICRC president Peter Maurer during a press conference after his trip to Syria 

ICRC president Peter Maurer during a press conference after his trip to Syria
© ICRC / ch-e-00869.jpg