Geneva (ICRC) - The release of detainees held in connection with the long-running conflict in southern Sudan is under way. Some 100 persons formerly held by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) arrived today in Khartoum. They were the first of more than 300 detainees expected to be released this week. The operation is being carried out under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), whose services as a neutral intermediary were requested by the SPLA and the Sudanese government.
The ICRC's role is to facilitate the transfer of released persons in accordance with the wishes of the parties to the conflict, who bear ultimate responsibility for agreeing upon and authorizing the releases. The ICRC's main concern now is to ensure that the operation is carried out in accordance with humanitarian principles. It has therefore held private interviews with all detainees to establish that each is returning home of his own free will.
The ICRC had previously registered the detainees and visited them over the course of several years to monitor the conditions of their detention and help them communicate with their families.
Over many years the ICRC has repeatedly asked the Sudanese government to grant it access to detainees under its jurisdiction. No access has yet been granted.
This operation requires five ICRC-chartered aircraft to fly to various locations throughout southern Sudan. Detainees gather in Rumbek, Ed Damazin and Juba before being flown to Khartoum.
The release is a welcome development for the ICRC, the detainees and their families, and marks a significant step towards fulfilling the conditions set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The ICRC will continue to monitor the situation of those still detained and hopes that they too will soon be released.
For further information, please contact:
Lorena Brander, ICRC Khartoum, tel. +249
9 121 377 64 or +249 1 83 476464/ 65/ 66
Marco Jiménez, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17
or visit our website: www.icrc.org