The Red Cross confirmed on Monday that it has begun conversations with rebel group FARC in hopes of expediting the release of an army general and two accompanying officials who were captured by alleged guerrillas in the west of Colombia.
The Red Cross told Colombia Reports that it has a team “analyzing the situation,” and is in contact with the armed group accused of having captured General Ruben Dario Alzate.
“We have a role as a neutral intermediary in Colombia’s armed conflict. We are in constant dialogue with the FARC, and using this dialogue we will do everything possible to facilitate the release [of the prisoners],” said Patricia Rey, Communications Coordinator for the Red Cross.
“These releases facilitation processes are complex, often very lengthy, and we’ve just started. We carry out [releases facilitation] with great discretion because they are also highly sensitive and confidential. We will wait for the conditions required for this provision are met,” continued Rey.
As a humanitarian organization, the Red Cross does not negotiate the terms of a hostage release, but carries out a logistical role so that prisoners can be returned to safety. Last year, the Red Cross carried out 25 such operations.
General Ruben Dario Alzate, commander of the Titan Army Task Force operating in the western coastal state of Choco, was allegedly taken prisoner by what are presumed to be members of the FARC’s 34th front in western Colombia on Sunday together with a captain and an attorney while in rebel-controlled territory. The Ministry of Defense issued a statement Sunday saying the the General was in civilian clothing when captured.
Following allegedly the FARC’s biggest military capture since the beginning of the conflict in 1964, President Juan Manuel Santos immediately suspended ongoing peace talks on Sunday with Colombia’s largest rebel group and demanded General Ruben Dario Alzate be released immediately.
The European Union (EU) also asked for the unconditional release of the prisoners on Monday, saying that FARC is putting the peace talks at risk.
The EU noted that “these negotiations are a unique opportunity to leave behind decades of armed conflict which caused many casualties and suffering,” according to Caracol Radio.
To facilitate the current peace talks between the group and the Colombian government, the FARC agreed to renounce the practice of kidnapping civilians and in 2012 released members of the military who were held in jungle camps.
The guerrillas have since captured more members of the military, but surrendered these “prisoners of war” to humanitarian groups in accordance with international humanitarian law.
- Interview with Patricia Rey, coordinator for the International Committee of the Colombian Red Cross
- Unión Europea pide que Farc entreguen sin condiciones a los secuestrados (Caracol Radio)