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End Vs. Means: Hostage Rescue & ICRC Emblem Misuse

Does The End Justify The Means? The Misuse Of The ICRC Emblem By Colombian Intelligence In Its Hostage Rescue Mission

The now famed Colombian rescue mission Operation Jaque, responsible for the rescue of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other important and high visibility hostages from the FARC, is being criticized for using emblems from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as part of its elaborate ruse.

Colombia's president Uribe has acknowledged this deception and has formally apologized to the ICRC. Three photographs provided by an unknown military source, and sold to CNN, show a Colombian soldier wearing an ICRC bib on his arm.

Furthermore, in previously unpublished video footage of the rescue mission, an emblem can be seen on the helicopter of the "Mision Internacional Humanitaria," which is supposedly an NGO based in Spain.

In fact, that organization was an invention of Colombian Intelligence. Moreover, the alleged NGO's registry number is identical to that of the Spanish NGO, Humanitarian Global, which is now demanding from Colombian authorities why they copied its registry data to create this fictitious organization. Furthermore, the website description of this fake NGO is almost an exact copy of the website of the legitimate NGO, Humanitarian Global.

At the end of the video footage, which zooms in on the helicopter, it is evident that the emblems of the fake NGO had now been removed and burned after the rescue was over. In an official statement issued on July 16, President Uribe acknowledged that a Colombian soldier, unnerved by the many guerrilla fighters surrounding the helicopter, placed over his vest a bib with the ICRC emblem." However, the same confidential military source that gave CNN the exclusive pictures said that the photos had been snapped only minutes before the mission started, undermining Uribe's version of events.

The ICRC took notice of Uribe's statement, but nonetheless, insisted that "the Red Cross emblem must be respected in all circumstance and its misuse is prohibited." Furthermore, the ICRC emphasized the critical importance of maintaining the neutrality of its emblem in order to preserve the trust of all parties involved and to better assist the victims.

The rescue begins to lose its glitter?

The explicit abuse of the ICRC emblem technically could be classified under the Geneva Convention as a War Crime. Moreover, the event raises questions concerning the already tainted rectitude of the Uribe administration that has been afflicted by many damaging revelations of scandals that for months have been impugning his office as well as staining his close political and legislative allies.

In recent days, Uribe has taken an almost casual attitude towards the illicit activities of his close military and political operatives. For example, the government has taken no official action against the soldier who used the ICRC emblem.

To emphasize his dismay over Uribe's attitude, Colombian Senator Jorge Robledo told the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo that it was shameful and "unacceptable that the theory that the end justifies the means" was being used to excuse the Colombian military's behavior in Operation Jaque.

He also expressed his belief that this type of behavior would further strain Colombia's relations with its neighbors. As a result of this latest event, for example, area leaders such as Ecuadorian President Correa claim that relations with Colombia cannot resume since "they don't have a decent government to deal with."

***

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Erina Uozumi

July 18th, 2008

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, please see our web page at www.coha.org

ENDS

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