Press Release
January 15, 2009

Abduction of ICRC workers may have violated international laws - Gordon

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today warned that the abduction of three staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Jolo, Sulu may have violated international treaties under the 1949 Geneva Convention.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) and a governor of the International Federation of the Red Cross, said the abduction may have violated Common Article 3 of the 4 Geneva Convention and 2 Additional Protocols.

"These people are there only to help the people of Mindanao. They are innocent people protected by international treaties under the Geneva Convention. We appeal to those who have taken them to return them to us safely," he said.

"Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention prohibits the abduction or kidnapping of persons taking no active part in hostilities, such as the ICRC which is an impartial humanitarian body that offers services to both parties in conflicts," he added.

Gordon issued the warning following the abduction by still unidentified armed men around 11:30 Thursday of three ICRC staff members, which included two foreign nationals and one Filipina after they left the Sulu provincial jail where they have been carrying out a water and sanitation project.

Abducted were Andreas Notter, a Swiss national who heads the ICRC in Zamboanga; Eugeno Vagni, an Italian water and sanitation delegate; and Mary Jean Lacaba, Filipina water and sanitation engineer

The ICRC team was aboard a PNRC vehicle Sulu Chapter when they were taken a few meters away from the gate of the prison.

Gordon said the incident could cause an international furor should the victims be harmed and not released immediately, with the respective embassies of the foreign victims already contacting the PNRC headquarters in Port Area, Manila.

"The Swiss and Italian embassies have already contacted us and they are very concerned over this unfortunate incident. We have also already informed the victims' next of kin," he said.

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