LETTER : Barbaric killing of Red Cross workers

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The Independent Online
Sir: Yesterday was an international day of mourning for the six Red Cross workers murdered in Chechnya on Tuesday. The killing of these innocent volunteers, whilst they slept in their beds at a hospital, has appalled the international community.

These murders are unprecedented in the history of the humanitarian movement. This is not an issue of security, but of barbarism. Even within the local context of the savage war in Chechnya, the murders make no sense. Whatever the motive, none of the warring parties can possibly extract any serious advantage from them.

The consequences of this event go far beyond Grozny. Such an attack ruthlessly undermines the position of the International Red Cross as one of the most neutral of agencies, and affects all of us who strive so hard to provide humanitarian aid. Most of all it affects people in terrible need throughout the world.

As one of the few humanitarian agencies active in Chechnya, we have lost six personal friends as well as colleagues. We knew the value of their work in helping civilians caught up in the war. We understood and shared the noble humanitarian ideal for which they have lost their lives. And we would like to express our profound condolences to their families and colleagues.

Dr CHRISTOPHER BESSE

on behalf of the staff and volunteers at Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin)

London W1

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