By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 7 June 2014:
The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced the suspension of its operations and . . .[restrict]movements in Libya after Wednesday’s murder of its Misrata chief on a visit to Sirte.
The widely-leaked move follows the deadly shooting of 42 year-old Swiss national Michael Greub.
However the ICRC’s acting deputy director of operations, Magne Barth, insisted yesterday that the organisation pledged not to abandon Libya.
Interviewed in Geneva, he said that time was needed to review the security situation. But he explained that the ICRC was not pulling out of Libya and would continue to support the victims of violence and conflict in the country.
“It was a shocking attack” said Barth, “we are [in Libya] for no other reason than to support the victims who need us there.” The attack was devastating in terms of the possible consequences for the beneficiaries of the ICRC’s work.
“We will have to think thoroughly on what comes next now. There are a number of things that we don’t know at all. We don’t know who was behind the attack. Nobody has claimed it. We can speculate but we don’t know”.
He said that it was not clear if the attack was specifically targeting the ICRC. “But the fact is that one of our staff members being part of a team was directly attacked and killed … but we cannot at this stage say it was an attack on the ICRC as an institution”.
Repeating that the Red Cross was not leaving Libya, Barth warned however that the way in which it operated had to be reassessed. For the moment, the organisation’s first priority was to support the five people and their families directly involved in Wednesday’s attack.
Flags at the ICRC’s Geneva HQ have been flying at half-mast as a tribute to Greuber. He had been working in Libya for two years, having previously been stationed in Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Gaza.
The ICRC ,which has been highly active in Libya since the early in the Revolution, has been targeted before, apparently in part because of the assumption that it is a Christian organisation. In August 2012 a series of five attacks culminated in the firing of RPGs at the ICRC building in Misrata. The five staff were unhurt but were withdrawn to Tripoli for some months. At that time, similar incidents also caused the evacuation of the Red Cross premises in Benghazi.
The ICRC has been involved in many areas including support for prisoners and refugees, tracing missing people, providing medical training, particularly in the treatment of battlefield wounds. It has also held seminars on human rights and sponsored exhibitions. For many programmes, it has worked closely with the Red Crescent which is now expected to take over some, at least, of it activities. [/restrict]