accessibility & help

Libya: civilians at high risk amid escalating conflict

21 March 2011

The Red Cross is deeply concerned about the intensification of fighting in and around densely populated centres in Libya in recent days, with the risk to civilian lives.

As airstrikes in Libya by international forces begin, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls upon all parties – the international forces, the Libyan government forces, and the armed opposition – to abide strictly by the rules and principles of international humanitarian law.

In particular, they must distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters.

International humanitarian law

"Attacks that directly target the civilian population are strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law," said Yves Daccord, ICRC director-general. "That law also prohibits the use of human shields.

“Indiscriminate attacks are likewise strictly prohibited. The parties must therefore take all precautions, including in their choice of means and methods of warfare, to avoid as far as possible harming civilians."

People not directly participating in the hostilities – including combatants who surrender or who are no longer capable of fighting because they are wounded or have been captured – must not be attacked and must be treated humanely.

Treating the injured

Libyan Red Crescent workers treating injured man© Info"We urge the parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian organisations safe access to areas affected by the war, and to enable medical personnel and ambulances to reach the wounded," Yves said.

The ICRC has been present in eastern Libya for more than three weeks, since shortly after violence broke out a month ago. It is supporting local medical teams and working closely with the Libyan Red Crescent to alleviate the plight of those affected by the conflict.

British Red Cross response

The British Red Cross is supporting the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement response to the conflict by supplying items for people fleeing to Tunisia, such as blankets, tarpaulins and kitchen sets, which were stocked in preparation for emergencies.

We have also deployed two logistics delegates to Djerba airport on the Tunisian border and one delegate to Egypt to help distribute emergency aid to the thousands of people who have fled Libya.

In addition, we have sent a four-member team of sanitation specialists to support the emergency operation at the Tunisia and Libya border.

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