Red Cross killings in Afghanistan reveal the limits of aid access

The news last week that six members of the International Committee of the Red Cross were killed in Jawzjan, Afghanistan was a tragic echo of an attack 20 years earlier when another six ICRC workers were lost – shot in their beds in their field hospital in Chechnya. At that time, targeted killings of aid workers were relatively rare and most agencies did not yet have basic security procedures, much less the professional security managers, armoured vehicles and other resources now applied to try to safeguard staff in the field. That it was the Red Cross Movement in particular that was attacked, despite its historical mandate and protected status under international humanitarian law as a neutral aid provider in war, struck a deep note of fear in the aid community and sense of unravelling international norms.

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