Monday, February 4, 2008

MNJ hands two hostages over to Red Cross and nabs a few more

From Agence France Presse:

Niger's Tuareg rebels handed two civilian hostages requiring medical treatment over to a Red Cross mission visiting their prisoners, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Saturday.

The ICRC said the mission to northern Niger between January 26 and February 1 had seen 33 prisoners, mainly members of government forces, who had been able to talk to their families by satellite telephone or write them messages.

They had also been given medical aid, blankets, clothing and other supplies.

But only two people, who needed urgent medical care, had left with the mission, the ICRC said, without specifying if they were civilian or military.

They had been taken to the town of Arlit where they were handed over to government authorities.

Also, government officials admitted that the Tuareg rebels, the Movement of Nigeriens for Justice, had recently captured two other civilians, including a teacher and an Imam. The recent abductions come after a 21 January attack on Tanhout when the group kidnapped a regional governor and four soldiers, in a move that Amnesty International claims breaks international law against involving civilians in military disputes.

The MNJ said on its website that the group would treat the prisoners “well.”


Adrian said...

MNJ is arguing that because the civilian was acting as an agent of the government in Niamey, through his actions as Prefect of Tanout, that he shouldn't be considered a civilian.

Africa Flak said...

It's a point well taken. However, doesn't this start to lead down a pretty slippery slope? Taking a Prefet hostage is one thing; what about an imam and a teacher?

Adrian said...

Here is MNJ's press release after their attack on Tanout. It doesn't mention any capture of an imam or a teacher. I don't know of any independent verification that MNJ in fact took prisoner an imam and a teacher from Tanout - the ICRC didn't say anything about it during their recent visit that I saw. That isn't to say it didn't happen of course, for instance MNJ could have hid them from the ICRC, but at this stage I'd treat it as an unproven government allegation rather than a fact.

This is the trouble that I'm finding as I'm trying to write my thesis on this conflict - information is pretty easily available but confirmation is very difficult to come by.