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South Sudan: ICRC facilitates repatriation of Sudanese prisoners of war

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, April 26, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has facilitated the repatriation of 13 Sudanese prisoners of war to Khartoum after their release by the South Sudanese authorities. The repatriation took place under the auspices of the Egyptian government, which also provided the transport to Khartoum.

After being handed over yesterday to the ICRC, the prisoners of war were accompanied by ICRC delegates as they travelled from Juba via Cairo to Khartoum, where they were placed in the care of representatives of the Sudanese government early this morning.

"We're extremely pleased to have brought these men back to their home country," said Melker Mabeck, the head of the ICRC delegation in Juba. "The repatriation of these 13 men confirms the ICRC's role as a trusted neutral intermediary. We remind the parties that the ICRC is entitled to access to all prisoners of war in order to carry out its humanitarian work."

During international armed conflicts, the ICRC is entitled under international humanitarian law to visit all prisoners of war. The visits are carried out to monitor detention conditions and ensure that prisoners are properly treated. The ICRC registers prisoners in order to keep track of their whereabouts, to prevent disappearances and to inform the families of their fate.

When they were still in detention, the 13 Sudanese prisoners of war were provided by the ICRC with clothing, mosquito nets, soap, sleeping mats and shoes. The prisoners were also given the opportunity to send family news messages to their loved ones through the ICRC.

"We are grateful to the Egyptian government for its support in carrying out this operation, and to the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments for their cooperation," said Mr Mabeck. "As an impartial, neutral and independent humanitarian organization, the ICRC stands ready to provide support for any similar operation in the future if the parties ask it to do so."

There has been an increase in fighting between Sudan and South Sudan over the last two weeks. During this period, the ICRC has donated medical supplies to the hospitals of Bentiu (South Sudan) and Muglad (Sudan), and has sent a surgical team to Bentiu. The ICRC has also visited prisoners of war in South Sudan.