list of ngos studied in Switzerland

ICRCComité International de la Croix Rouge [International Committee of the Red Cross]
Country of head officeSWITZERLAND
Postal address of the head office19 Avenue de la Paix
Date of creation of the NGO1863
Field of action- Nutritional
- Medical care
- Educational
- Peace building
Level of actionOperational agency
Religious characterNone
Percentage of private resourcesResources by country
9% out of a 1129.2 CHF million budget in 2009
10% out of a 1165.8 CHF million budget in 2008
11% out of a 1032.8 CHF million budget in 2007
14% out of a 976.1 CHF million budget in 2006
20% out of a 987.3 CHF million budget in 2005
13% out of a 793.2 CHF million budget in 2004
12% out of a 915.8 CHF million budget in 2003
11% out of a 803.2 CHF million budget in 2002
11% out of a 848.3 CHF million budget in 2001
21% out of a 867 CHF million budget in 2000
21% out of a 857.5 CHF million budget in 1999
15% out of a 640 CHF million budget in 1998
21% out of a 663.4 CHF million budget in 1996
25% out of a 723.8 CHF million budget in 1995
20% out of a 749.2 CHF million budget in 1994
22% out of a 811.3 CHF million budget in 1993
21% out of a 823.6 CHF million budget in 1992
28% out of a 725.2 CHF million budget in 1991
22% out of a 451 CHF million budget in 1990
25% out of a 468.5 CHF million budget in 1989
20% out of a 350.8 CHF million budget in 1988
23% out of a 264 CHF million budget in 1987
16% out of a 333.6 CHF million budget in 1986
25% out of a 555.7 CHF million budget in 1985
23% out of a 319.6 CHF million budget in 1984
18% out of a 254 CHF million budget in 1983
40% out of a 174 CHF million budget in 1982
17% out of a 144 CHF million budget in 1981
38% out of a 144.6 CHF million budget in 1980
18% out of a 109 CHF million budget in 1979
25% out of a 58.9 CHF million budget in 1978
35% out of a 47.9 CHF million budget in 1977
16% out of a 59.6 CHF million budget in 1976
30% out of a 39.4 CHF million budget in 1975
26% out of a 37 CHF million budget in 1974
28% out of a 35 CHF million budget in 1973
29% out of a 37.4 CHF million budget in 1972
25% out of a 23.5 CHF million budget in 1971
38% out of a 21.8 CHF million budget in 1970
15% out of a 117.2 CHF million budget in 1969
10% out of a 47.8 CHF million budget in 1968
36% out of a 13.9 CHF million budget in 1967
54% out of a 8.6 CHF million budget in 1966
62% out of a 9 CHF million budget in 1965
58% out of a 8.4 CHF million budget in 1964
64% out of a 7.5 CHF million budget in 1963
62% out of a 8 CHF million budget in 1962
53% out of a 8.7 CHF million budget in 1961
63% out of a 6.6 CHF million budget in 1960
61% out of a 6.4 CHF million budget in 1959
60% out of a 7.5 CHF million budget in 1958
35% out of a 15 CHF million budget in 1957
59% out of a 8.2 CHF million budget in 1956
63% out of a 3.2 CHF million budget in 1955
70% out of a 3.8 CHF million budget in 1954
70% out of a 4 CHF million budget in 1953
73% out of a 7.6 CHF million budget in 1952
89% out of a 6.2 CHF million budget in 1950
Countries of actionSeveral




- History -

-1863, Switzerland: The International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, renamed the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1875, is founded on 17 February 1863 by five prominent men from Geneva. The group's leader, Henry Dunant (1828-1910), is a businessman with interests in French Algeria. Setting out to negotiate a contract between his company, the Moulins de Mons-Djémila, and Napoleon III, he instead discovered an interest in humanitarianism after his journey took him through Solferino where Italian and Austrian troops clashed on 14 June 1859. His shock at the fate of those left to die on the battlefields led him to write a successful book, published three years later. Henry Dunant, also a member of the Evangelist Society, had previously been involved in other charities. In 1849 he founded the Young People's Christian Union, later to become a Universal Alliance and better known today as the YMCA (Young Men's Christian Alliance). The four other members of the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded come from varying backgrounds. Guillaume-Henri Darfour, a general in the Swiss Army, is renowned as a hero since the Sonderbund war in 1847: his role includes convincing military circles of the humanitarian project's necessity. Gustave Moynier is a business lawyer and, since 1858, the chairman of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare, a moral and philanthropic organisation set up in 1828. From 1864 to 1910, he is going to run and lead the ICRC. As for Louis Appia, a field surgeon at Solferino in 1859, he directed the Geneva Medical Society in 1861 and will treat victims of the Battle of Bezzecca, where Austrian troops clash with Giuseppe Garibaldi's forces in 1866. The final member, Théodore Maunoir, is also a surgeon. Under the banner of the Geneva Society for Public Welfare, the five men initially aim at defending their humanitarian project in Berlin before a charitable conference which is planned for September 1863… and eventually cancelled. Nevertheless, they continue their efforts to set up a voluntary medical corps capable of intervening on the battlefield. In October 1863 they finally manage to convince diplomats from all of the major European countries to attend an international conference on the matter.

-1864, Switzerland: The Committee launches the first Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field. Signed on 22 August 1864, the text only contains ten articles. It does not discourage war, nor does it encourage peace through disarmament. Instead, it focuses on improving combat conditions, even if this involves helping governmental armies. While similar projects had failed in the past, the Convention is signed because the drafting of soldiers means that European states are increasingly held responsible for the military’s health, unlike for career soldiers and mercenaries. The initiative is also supported by the public, more aware of soldiers’ suffering after new developments in communications and weapons technology increased casualties and invalidated more chivalric principles of warfare. For Gustave Moynier, providing relief to the wounded is also a communications exercise. According to him, activities in this area will increase public awareness of the horrors of war, making it impossible for civilians to remain ignorant and, therefore, complacent. Nevertheless, the Geneva Committee is unable to reach an agreement on whether to set up a neutral international volunteer corps capable of intervening on the battlefield. The selection process therefore falls to governments, and authorised volunteers are given revocable licenses. Meanwhile, the famous British nurse, Florence Nightingale, expresses serious doubts as to Henry Dunant’s programme. In her opinion, relief to the war-wounded is a public rather than a private sector exercise. She considers that national Red Cross societies will merely support conflicts and enable governments to avoid taking responsibility for their soldiers. The historian John Hutchinson goes even further and claims that such activities are tantamount to encouraging “total warfare” because they combine civilian and military relief. Oddly enough, the armed forces are dubious too. They fear volunteers would be less skilled than the military’s internal medical units, especially women, who are praised by civilian groups for having more time to dedicate to charitable activities.

-From 1865, Switzerland: After Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and France set up national societies in 1864, the Red Cross movement gains momentum in Europe despite opposition from competing projects by Ferdinando Palasciano and Henry Arrault in 1861. The latter, who had planned to use a black flag and white scarf as his emblem, accuses Henry Dunant of imitating him. In newspaper articles published on 3 August 1865 in L’Economiste français and 8 September 1866 in La Presse, Henry Arrault claims authorship of the Geneva Conventions. During a public lecture at the Pontaniane Academy in Naples on 27 December 1863, similar claims were made by Ferdinando Palasciano, who was later to become a senator in 1876. But the idea of the Red Cross remains Swiss, inspired by the principles of neutrality and universality. To preserve the Geneva Committee from nationalist concerns, for instance, joint membership is forbidden, although Guillaume-Henri Dufour breaks this rule and joins the Swiss Red Cross, set up in 1866. And while the movement has Protestant origins, it also spreads to Orthodox countries (Greece in 1865 and Russia in 1867), Muslim regions (the Ottoman Empire in 1865) and Catholic states (France, Spain and Italy from 1864, Austria and Bavaria in 1866, and the Vatican in 1868). To recognise Red Crosses after their country ratify the Geneva Convention, however, the Committee reveals the bias of Western Christian nations that see themselves as superior to “exotic” developing countries whose people are considered unable to respect “codes of conduct” during war. Thus the institution rebuffs Chinese and Korean initiatives to set up national societies. An investor in Algeria, Henry Dunant himself is a firm believer in the colonial venture, not to mention crusades: he supports the idea of a Jewish settlement in Palestine, and drafts in 1866 an international project (projet de société internationale pour la rénovation de l’Orient) to establish under French protection a universal company (compagnie universelle) in the Middle East. Exiled to Paris in 1867, he still advocates the colonisation of Palestine with the support of Württemberg protestant fanatics who want to move to the Holy Land and form an obscure “Temple Council”. In this, Henry Dunant is inspired by King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, and Napoleon III, that he compares to Charlemagne to revive the Holy Roman Empire.

-1866-1869, Germany: With free access to post, telegraph and rail services, the Prussian Red Cross successfully carries out its first mission during a war with Austria in 1866. Prior to the conflict, volunteers were stationed near the battlefield and placed directly under army supervision to avoid giving away military secrets. Their efficiency contrasts with the relief society set up by the Austrians in April 1859, two months before the battle of Solferino. This organisation is not ready for the war and prefers to evacuate its surgeons instead of treating wounded soldiers at Sadowa in July 1866. Moreover, the Austrians pay no respect to the international humanitarian law and they imprison Prussian medical doctors. It is the military defeat that convinces the government in Vienna to establish a real Red Cross and to sign the Geneva Convention at the end of the year. By comparison, the German Army is much quicker to realise that there are many advantages in using civilian doctors. According to letters written by the surgeon Theodor Billroth from military hospitals in Wissembourg and Mannheim in 1870, the Prussian Red Cross has serious competition from the Order of Malta. Nevertheless, it quickly becomes the only official humanitarian partner of the German government, which names three commissioners to monitor the activities of the society. Its position is reinforced when the German states reunite. The organisation is given “private company” status, and the six national societies and their 250,000 members are brought together under a central committee in Berlin in line with a ruling passed in 1869. This differs to the federal model favoured by the Austrian Red Cross. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the German organisation is completely integrated into the army; the title of the Prussian chapter’s monthly bulletin, for instance, is Kriegerheil (“Hail, soldier”). According to the given division of labour, a new medical military department evacuates wounded soldiers from the battlefield, while civilian members of the Red Cross take charge of hospitals away from the frontline.

-From 1867, Switzerland: The First International Conference of the Red Cross takes place in Paris and confirms Geneva as permanent headquarters of the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, despite attempts by French delegates to have them moved to France. Meanwhile, Henry Dunant is implicated in a financial scandal at the Crédit Genevois, a bank where he sat on the board of directors and to which he sold his quarries in Felfela, Algeria. Accused of dishonesty, embezzlement and conflicts of interest, he is forced to resign from the Committee and replaced by Edmond Favre, a Swiss Colonel. Actually, explains Angela Bennett, its Algerian investments constituted only 1% of the assets of the Crédit Genevois, so they cannot be blamed for the bankruptcy of a bank with reserves of CHF 25 million. But Henry Dunant is also suspected of being a freemason and a homosexual. As a result, he has to flee to Paris, where he lives with very little means and helps the president of the French Red Cross, Count Emmanuel de Flavigny, to escape the Commune in 1871. Involved in pacifist movements, Henry Dunant still tries to launch an international and universal humanitarian organisation for the armed forces, the Œuvre internationale et universelle d’humanité en faveur des armées de terre et de mer, which continues to use the Red Cross emblem despite protests by Gustave Moynier. On returning to live in Heiden, Eastern Switzerland, in 1887, Henry Dunant will eventually be re-discovered by a German journalist and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. However, fearing the Crédit Genevois would claim his earnings, he will not dare to travel to Oslo to collect the prize. Instead, he will send a friend, the Norwegian Colonel Hans Daae, who will subsequently bank the cheque in his name. Due to the personal animosity between Henry Dunant and Gustave Moynier (the latter lacking the charisma of the former), the Red Cross will only celebrate officially its founder on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, in 1928.

-1868, France: Count Charles Marie Augustin de Goyon (1803-1870), a senator, is named president of the Society for relief to wounded army and navy servicemen (Société de secours aux blessés militaires des armées de terre et de mer). He replaces General Raymond de Montesquiou, Duke of Fezensac (1784-1867), who had first held the position and who fought alongside Emperor Napoleon I, before swearing allegiance to King Louis XVIII, taking part in the conquest of Algeria and becoming Louis-Philippe d’Orléans’ ambassador to Madrid. At this point, the French Red Cross only exists on paper, given its almost complete lack of operational capacities. Although the organisation is given official approval in a decree passed in 1866, it has terrible relations with military personnel. The army’s medical services does not want competition from civilian volunteers. Only with the help of Geneva-based General Guillaume-Henri Dufour (under whom Emperor Napoleon III served) does the French Red Cross manage to obtain recognition from the French army.

-1869, Germany: At the Second International Conference of the Red Cross, held in Berlin from 22 to 27 April 1869, delegates decide that national societies could also be called on in natural disasters and civilian emergencies. This would allow them to remain active in peacetime and be more reactive during wartime. Meanwhile, the Geneva Committee, whose five members are not paid, hires its first employee in May 1869 thanks to financial contributions from national societies, even though the latter have no seats on the board of the institution. As defender of the principles of the Red Cross movement, the organisation also begins publishing a very neutrally worded tri-monthly bulletin in October 1869.

-From 1870, France: the Société de secours aux blessés militaires des armées de terre et de mer is not prepared to cope with the Franco-Prussian war, which begins in July 1870. This is partly due to its leadership. Run by aristocrats and headed by Count Emmanuel de Flavigny from 1870 to 1873, it refuses to let professional medical personnel practice in the field and dismisses a renowned war surgeon, Auguste Nélaton, replacing him with a doctor close to the nobility, Jean-Charles Chenu. Thus Léon Le Fort, a surgeon, criticises the society’s incompetency in an article published in the Revue des deux mondes in 1871. He gives further details in his book: in charge of setting up mobile clinics for the organisation in July 1870, he was stripped of his position in August and surrendered after the siege of Metz in October. In his own words, “the medical corps was unable to manage the ambulance service from the outset of the conflict. A kind of voluntary corps, run by civilians lacking basic experience in warfare, scuppered all efforts by doctors.” At the front, nurses and stretcher-bearers were recruited amongst the unemployed, drunkards, thieves, idlers, unqualified Lady Bountifuls and deserters trying to escape the call-up by wearing medical uniforms. Red Cross armbands were generously distributed, to the point that peasants used them to access the battlefields and steal valuables from corpses without being shot. Others ingeniously put Red Cross banners on the roofs of their houses to avoid having to lodge soldiers: in line with Article 5 of the Geneva Convention of 1864, civilians’ dwellings could not be requisitioned if they were being used to treat the wounded. Away from the front line, some citizens also wore a Red Cross to pretend they had been awarded the French Legion of Honour, a red medal. In the same vein, city councils, philanthropic capitalists, freemasons, Protestants organisations and Jewish groups abused the Red Cross logo to win over the public. General Charles Bourbaki even dressed up as a nurse to escape the town of Metz, surrounded by the enemy. On the contrary, soldiers evacuating the wounded refused to wear the Red Cross armband, arguing they would look like cowards trying to protect themselves from enemy fire. As a matter of fact, knowledge of the 1864 Geneva Convention is quite poor. On one side, the Germans bomb and kill two nurses in a hospital at Sedan on 1st September 1870. On the other, French Francs-tireurs finish off a wounded Bavarian surgeon at Orléans on 10th of November 1870; a day after, regular troops briefly take over the city, deport German nurses to Pau and compel American relief workers to evacuate fatally injured prisoners of war. Captured in Dijon on 27 December 1870, surgeons from the Prussian Red Cross are then imprisoned. And wounded French soldiers, treated in Switzerland, are reintegrated into the Army despite provisions to the contrary in the Geneva Convention. As for the Germans, they deliberately bomb hospitals while they lay siege of Paris. After their victory in January 1871, the French Société de secours aux blessés militaires, which lost four volunteers during the war, does not perform better. Far from remaining neutral, it supports the government of the Versaillais over the rebels of the Paris Commune, the Fédérés. Consequently, the latter dissolve the society, confiscate its material, and briefly arrest Jean-Charles Chenu in April 1871. The Fédérés, who only ratify the Geneva Convention on 13 May 1871, also kill a Red Cross doctor who is the first victim of this civil war. As a result, the Versaillais make no prisoners because they consider that his death justifies the systematic killing of combatants who subsequently fall into their hands. Another doctor is killed and six nurses wounded by the rebels. Meanwhile, ambulances trapped in Paris are used to hide priests persecuted by the Commune, as well as weapons for royalist forces. When the Fédérés begin to use the Red Cross logo, members of the Société de secours aux blessés militaires give up all pretence of neutrality and return to civilian life, abandoning their armbands. For the Versaillais, explains the founder of the British Red Cross John Furley, even the International Committee of the Red Cross is suspect because its name reminds the Socialist International! The Société de secours aux blessés militaires remains biased after the fall of the Commune on 27th May 1871. In January 1872, it funds a memorial service at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris for the victims of the Franco-Prussian War, but not for those killed by the Versaillais. Likewise, the Society sets up at Invalides Palace a Red Cross museum dedicated only to those who died in battle against the Germans. Indeed, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires is very conservative, and its members are mainly Orleanist aristocrats. Between 1873 and 1886, it is presided by King Louis-Philippe’s second son, Louis d’Orléans (1814-1896), Duke of Nemours, who took part in the conquest of Algeria, and went into exile during the 1848 revolution before returning to France in 1871 and being expelled from the army with other monarchists in 1886. At the head of the Society, he is replaced by Marshal Edme Patrice Maurice Mac-Mahon (1808-1898), a reactionary legitimist who fought during the Crimean War, resigned when Charles X abdicated in 1830, governed Algeria in 1864-1870, organised the repression of the Commune in 1871, and was elected President of the French Republic from 1873 to 1879 thanks to support from a monarchist coalition at the National Assembly. The other presidents of the Société de secours aux blessés militaires are cut in the same mould. Between 1893 and 1897, it is King Louis-Philippe’s fourth son, Henri Eugène Philippe d’Orléans (1822-1897), Duke of Aumale: a Governor of the African French colonies in 1847, and a Deputy in 1871, he was sent into exile by the Republicans and removed from the French army in 1886, before returning from exile in 1889. From 1897 to 1904, leadership of the Society next passes to Léopold Davout (1829-1904), the Duke of Auerstaëdt and the nephew of a famous Marshal of Napoleon I. From 1904 to 1916, the organisation is then presided by Marquis Melchior de Vogüé (1829-1916), a former French ambassador to Istanbul and Vienna in the 1870s. The first commoner to take the reins of the French Red Cross is professor Louis Renault from 1916 to 1918, during World War One. In the meantime, the organisation has gradually lost all independence. Since its nationalisation both by the Fédérés and the Versaillais, explains Bertrand Taithe, it became an auxiliary of the governement, ready to mobilise civilians and relief workers to fight alongside the military in the modern totalitarian wars of the XXth Century.

-1871-1872, Switzerland: while France and Prussia sign an armistice on 28 January 1871, the Swiss Red Cross resettles some of the 80,000 soldiers of General Charles Bourbaki’s army, which had retreated to Swiss. During the conflict, the Geneva Committee had also set up an International Agency for Information and Assistance to the Wounded in the border town of Basel. Working under a new logo, the green cross, it had recorded prisoners held by both sides, and it facilitates subsequent repatriation programmes by the French and German Red Crosses. However, the war experience is not all positive for the Geneva Committee, two years before its tenth anniversary in 1873. During the conflict, there was so little respect for the humanitarian law that Gustave Moynier publishes in January 1872 a memorandum on the need to establish an “international judicial institution capable of preventing and punishing violations of the Geneva Convention.” Such a proposal will eventually give rise to the International Criminal Court in 1998. In the meantime, the Committee has to be more realistic, and give up some of the utopian dreams it had initially harboured regarding, for instance, the repatriation of wounded or able-bodied soldiers before the end of the fighting, even if this helps enemy armies to re-form during conflict. Drafted during a diplomatic conference in Geneva in 1868, additional articles to the 1864 Geneva Convention theoretically arrange the liberation of wounded prisoners-of-war. But they forbid them to take up arms again. And they allow detaining authorities to keep prisoners for military purposes, especially if they have strategic information, so that the former are not tempted to kill the latter. In a book published in 1876, a German, Carl Lueder, then request that the 1864 Convention also cover civilian as well as military hospitals, but to no avail: the ICRC’s mandate remains restricted to the war wounded.

-1872-1876, Spain: The Second Carlist War, which lasts until 1876, is the first internal conflict where the Geneva Committee intervenes, albeit through the intermediary of national Red Crosses. Between 1873 and 1875, the French Society, for instance, takes charge of Spanish refugees who flee to Southern France. The ICRC funds some of these operations, despite opposition from Madrid. Indeed, the Spanish authorities would have preferred to deal with war victims both inside and outside their country. In Spain, the Geneva Committee leaves things up to the Cruz Roja and decides not to send any representative, unlike during the 1875 conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Established on 6 July 1864 by the head of the army’s medical division, Nicasio Landa y Alvarez de Carvallo, the Spanish Red Cross is very close to the monarchy. Under the patronage of Queen Isabel, it is presided by an important prior in the Order of St. John, Infante Sebastian Gabriel de Bourbon y Braganza, and it continues the tradition of a “Holy Cross Society” that was set up on 2 May 1808, during the uprising against the French invaders and Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops in Madrid. Initially called the “Spanish Society for Relief to the War Wounded” pursuant to a law of 20 April 1870, it is exempted from regulations that were passed on 17 April 1821 and that assimilated to a rebel any person who rescued guerrillas. When the Second Carlist War breaks out in 1872, the Cruz Roja is presided by Count José Joaquin de Ripalda, the Marquis of Campos Salinas. At the end of the conflict, the organisation becomes completely inactive, to the point that the ICRC looks into whether it still actually exist in 1892.

-1873-1914: Great Britain: Initially launched by Colonel Robert Loyd-Lindsay, a hero of the Crimean War and a Member of Parliament (MP), the organisation that will give rise to the British Red Cross splits into two separate entities when its founder, John Furley, resigns in 1873. A member of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the latter opposes the former, an aristocrat who becomes Lord Wantage and who refuses to popularize and bureaucratize the charity’s activities under the banner of the War Office (that he joins he 1877). As a result, John Furley starts in 1877 another organisation, the Saint John Ambulance Brigade, to provide public health services during peacetime. And he keeps attending ICRC meetings, despite no longer having an institutional connection to Robert Loyd-Lindsay’s Red Cross, which is more and more isolated. The disagreements between the two men are also due to their different reactions to the army’s attempts to militarise an organisation that tried to remain independent and neutral by sending relief workers in civilian clothing to both sides during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. In 1899, the authorities settle the question and set up a Central British Red Cross Committee, the CBRCC, to train volunteers during peacetime in preparation for war. Pursuant to a royal decree of July 1905, Robert Loyd-Lindsay’s organisation is merged to form the BRCS (British Red Cross Society). Each entity is supposed to maintain separate tasks in peacetime and wartime respectively. Headed by the Queen and sponsored by the King, the new organisation is successively led by a famous surgeon, Sir Frederick Treves (1853-1923), then from 1912, by a Liberal MP of Brighton, Edward Ridsdale (1864-1923), and from 1917, by a Tory representative of Ormskirk, Arthur Stanley. In 1908, a royal charter confirms the institutionalisation of the BRCS, which successfully hosted the Eighth International Conference of the Red Cross in London a year before. As president of the organisation since 1910, however, Nathan Meyer Rothschild is unable to take over the Saint John Ambulance Brigade, which competes for funding and opportunities to provide uniformed volunteers to the Ministry of War. When fighting breaks out against Germany in 1914, both entities are given equal status, a move that leads Edward Ridsdale to resign. But they are eventually forced to become one, largely due to pressure from The Times newspaper, which refuses to launch two separate fundraising campaigns. During the conflict, the BRCS is to hire many women, the FANYs (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), who compensate for the lack of men and are grouped into so-called VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachments). Feminism and nationalism go altogether in this regard. Up to 80,000 women serve under the British Red Cross, especially ladies of the middle classes that are prevented to join the ranks and files of factory workers.

-From 1874, Belgium: Auguste Visschers, president of the Belgian Red Cross since 1868, dies in June 1874 and is replaced by General Bruno-Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Renard until his death in July 1879. Originally set up on 4 February 1864 by Doctor André Uytterhoeven, head surgeon at Anvers Hospital, the society had become the oldest in Europe after Germany was reunited in 1869 and equivalent organisations disappeared in Wurtemberg and Oldenburg. But the Belgian Red Cross is divided between its doctors on the one hand, and the army and the aristocracy on the other, not to mention tensions between Flemish and Walloons. Doctor Henri van Holsbeek (1829-1873), for instance, left the Brussels Red Cross chapter to set up his own in Anvers in 1873. However, his organisation is taken over by the aristocracy under the presidency, from 1885, of Louis-Eugène-Henri-Marie Lamoral, Prince of Ligne (1854-1918). Unable to develop operations, the Croix-Rouge belge (CRB) also wastes considerable time and money in bringing lawsuits against businesses that supposedly misappropriated its logo. Following other constitutional monarchies in Europe, the government then takes control of the society. The CRB is officially recognised by a law passed on 30 March 1891 and forbidden to provide relief or funds outside the country without the permission of the Ministry of War.

-1875-1876, Montenegro: thanks to the adoption of the Geneva Convention by the state of Montenegro on 29 November 1875, the ICRC can legally provide relief to some of the 40,000 refugees that flee the Balkan wars opposing Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire on the other. In January 1876, a delegate from the Committee sets up the Montenegrin Red Cross with support from its Russian counterpart. The organisation is soon followed by similar structures in Romania and Serbia. This is a timely move given the Austrian Red Cross’ reluctance to take charge of refugees instead of its own soldiers. However, only sovereign nations are supposed to ratify the Geneva Convention, and Montenegro and Serbia are not recognised by the Ottoman Empire. As a result, notes Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, Istanbul protests against the breach of its suzerainty. Indeed, the ICRC circumvented the international law to encourage new Red Crosses in regions fighting for independence, even if their final recognition depended on a subsequent ratification of the Geneva Convention by their government. Elsewhere, however, the Committee was more careful to respect national sovereignties and it avoided intervening directly in international conflicts. After criticising Louis Appia and Henry Dunant’s unilateral efforts in Germany in 1866 and France in 1870 respectively, the ICRC seldom sent delegates into the field, and mostly operated through national societies.

-1876-1896, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria: The ICRC supports the creation of a Serbian Red Cross in June 1876, although the country’s independence is not recognised until the Berlin Conference in March 1878. Presided by the Archbishop of Belgrade, the society has 1500 members and is immediately active during clashes with the Ottoman Empire. As soon as September 1876, for instance, one of its secretaries, Luka Popovitch, is killed by Turkish cavalry in Aleksinac (Alexinatz). To oversee the various Red Cross activities in the region, the ICRC establishes in June 1877 an international agency based in Trieste and led by Alexis Paris, the Swiss consul in the city from 1875 to 1889. In November 1885, the ICRC intervenes once again to help victims of a conflict between Serbia and Bulgaria. This time, the two local Red Crosses manage to cooperate effectively, probably because of their shared Orthodox faith. Just set up in July 1885, the Bulgarian Red Cross is thus presided by Vasil Drumev, Metropolitan Kliment of Turnovo. As for the Serbian Red Cross, its control passes to the military when the conflict comes to an end. From 1888 to 1896, it is presided by General Milojko Leschianin (1833-1896), Chief of Staff and War Minister in 1873 and 1880 respectively.

-1877-1878, Turkey: The Red Crescent replaces the Red Cross symbol in the Muslim world. In 1868, a fleeting Ottoman Society for Relief to the War Wounded had been set up by a Hungarian doctor, Karl Edward Hammerschmidt, who had fled the Habsburg monarchy during the 1848 revolution. But the organisation had collapsed after the death in 1874 of its founder, who had converted to Islam, taken the name Abdullah Bey and been promoted to the rank of colonel and medical chief of the Istanbul Imperial Guard after the Crimean War of 1853-1856. In 1877, the Society is then resurrected by Hadj Harif Bey, its president, and Marco Pasha, chief inspector of health services for the sultan’s armies in Constantinople. Refusing to adopt an emblem it identifies with the Crusades, it will officially take the name of Ottoman Red Crescent in April 1911. Meanwhile, the government only agrees in June 1877 not to shoot at people wearing the Red Cross emblem. And Turkish troops continue to violate the international humanitarian law. During a war against Russia and Serbia in 1877-1878, they execute wounded enemy soldiers, mutilate their bodies, and kill first-aid workers of the Red Cross. In Romania, for instance, they attack a hospital in Giurgiu (Giurgewo), and slaughter two “health officers” in Plevna in July 1877. Admittedly, no side is completely innocent. In Vidin (Widdin), Bulgaria, the Romanians, who have just set up a national Red Cross society, bomb a Turkish hospital suspected of hiding canons. In January and February 1878, Russians and Cossacks shoot at Ottoman medical facilities in Rustchuk (Russe) and Guildiz-Tabiassi (Telis), southwest of Pleven, Bulgaria, arguing the Red Crescent logo is neither recognised nor neutral. They also pillage a hospital in Kars, Armenia. As a jurist rather than an ICRC member, Gustave Moynier finally protests publicly against Ottoman abuses, going against the rule according to which abuses observed in the field must be communicated directly to the national societies concerned. After the Turkish defeat in January 1878, the ICRC eventually widens its mandate, and assists civilian refugees alongside the Ottoman Red Crescent: an innovation for an institution focused on the war-wounded.

-From 1878, Switzerland: The 1870 Franco-Prussian War, which severely affected the Red Cross movement, causes the ICRC to enter a recession phase. Except for the Balkan Wars at the turn of the century, when its budget reaches 11,871 Swiss Franks in 1912 and 8,771 in 1913, the financial resources of the organisation thus decline from CHF 8,280 in 1880 to 3,005 in 1881, 5,032 in 1898, 4,633 in 1901, 3,403 in 1903, 5,852 in 1905, 5,914 in 1906, 5,872 in 1907, 5,977 in 1908, 6,376 in 1909, 7,447 in 1910, 6,999 in 1911, and 6,903 in 1914. According to the minutes of ICRC meetings, its assets also decrease in the 1880s. They represented CHF 86,000 in 1879, 68,000 in 1880, 136,000 in 1881, 118,000 in 1884 and 80,000 in 1889, as against 105,000 in 1894, 129,000 in 1898, 173,000 in 1899, 179,000 in 1901, 177,000 in 1902, 179,000 in 1904, 180,000 in 1905, 179,000 in 1906, 171,000 in 1907, 172,000 in 1908, 174,000 in 1909, 176,000 in 1910, 177,000 in 1911, 159,000 in 1912, 159,000 in 1913 and 143,000 in 1914.

-From 1879, Peru: Allied to Bolivia against Chile during the War of the Pacific that breaks out in April 1879, the Peruvians set up a “Blue Cross” relief society. Presided by Monsignor Jose Antonio Roca, it cares for wounded evacuees in the coastal province of Lima and receives a bit of funding from the ICRC, which recognises it the following year. However, when Chilean troops occupy Lima in January 1881, Jose Antonio Roca is forced into exile. At this point, a bookseller, Emile Henriod, takes over the organisation, and manages to have it declared of public utility in 1883. Nevertheless, it remains inactive for a long time, and is only open to men: women are admitted for the first time in 1911, eight years before the society joins the League of the Red Cross in 1919. After a brief war against Ecuador in 1941, the organisation is mainly concerned by internal conflicts within Peru. The revolt instigated by the Shining Path, a Maoist group, also causes the ICRC to intervene from 1984 onwards, as a fierce army crackdown leads to the displacement of large numbers of civilians. Unable to initiate dialogue with the rebels, the Committee has no access to their prisoners and settles for working in government-controlled zones. But the relations with the authorities are tense too. Thus the ICRC is not given permission to visit prisoners held by the secret police, or to enter regions where a state of emergency has been declared and where it can only distribute aid to poor children in the town of Ayacucho. If these bans are lifted in January and April 1986 respectively, they are put in force again a year after. Despite sporadic visits to political prisoners in 1988 and the signing of a general agreement with the authorities in June 1989, a leak to the press then shakes the government’s confidence in the ICRC when a magazine from Lima publishes in February 1993 an interview of the detained leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzmán, who was arrested in September 1992. As a result, Geneva suspends its assistance to prisoners for a month because the interview has been recorded without its knowledge during one of its prison visits. The organisation finds it easier to intervene during a brief border conflict between Peru and Ecuador in January 1995. But it regularly comes up against difficulties when it tries to help civilians. On 25 February 1994, two employees die in a plane crash soon after taking off Tingo María. On 17 December 1996, the head of the ICRC delegation in Lima, Michel Minnig, is one of the 650 guests taken hostage by a Túpac Amaru commando at the Japanese Embassy. Thanks to its prison meetings with other rebels from the same organisation, the Geneva Committee can quickly offer its good offices in negotiations between the terrorists and the Peruvian president, Alberto Fujimori. Held captive in the Japanese Embassy, Michel Minnig acts as a mediator and is soon acclaimed as a national hero. In the meantime, the government puts pressure on hostage takers by threatening to discontinue Red Cross visits to political prisoners. The Japanese Embassy is finally freed during a dramatic clash with the Peruvian Army in April 1997. It takes the ICRC several months to obtain permission to recommence its assistance to detained militants of Túpac Amaru and the Shining Path. The situation subsequently improves, except for a brief period during which visits are stopped because of prison riots. Guerrillas loose ground, and Alberto Fujimori is forced to leave the country in April 2000 after accusations of corruption and election fraud. Such political changes mean the ICRC can now investigate those who disappeared during the conflict, and support a Truth Commission established in June 2001 to look into human rights violations during the two preceding decades.

-1880-1938, Austria: Following the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, the local Red Crosses are merged and placed under Vienna’s control in 1880. The new organisation is chaired by Baron Karl von Tinti, who led the first Austrian Red Cross since the 1864 Geneva Convention. Until the establishment of a republic in 1918, his successors are also nobles: Count Franz Falkenhayn from 1885 to 1898, Prince Alois Schönburg-Hartenstein from 1899 to 1913, and Count Rudolf Abensperg-Traun from 1913 to 1919. In the meantime, the organisation begins emergency programmes for civilians during peacetime. Under the impetus of Baron Jaromir von Mundy (1882-1894), it helps to mobilise fire brigades, surgeons, and flood specialists after a spectacular fire that destroyed the Ring Theatre in Vienna and left 449 dead in December 1881. While the scheme is extended to Budapest in 1887, various groups of volunteers also contract with the army to operate during wartime. They plan to take over the urban transportation of wounded soldiers and fire fighting in barracks, arsenals, and military hospitals in Vienna. But the Red Cross returns to centre stage during World War One. After the fall of the monarchy and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is then re-organised under the aegis of Baron Max Vladimir Freiherr von Beck (1854-1943), who was briefly Prime Minister from 1906 to 1908. Led from 1919 to 1938 by Doctor Max Vladimir Eck, the ÖRK (Österreichisches Rotes Kreuz) is now confined to the Austrian territory and must immediately deal with the political troubles that shake the young republic and eventually force Geneva to intervene. In October 1934, for instance, the ICRC delegate to Vienna, Louis Ferrière, is given permission to visit Wöllensdorf prison, where many Nazi suspects are imprisoned since the assassination of Chancellor Engelbert Dollfüss in July. He finds the conditions of detention acceptable. Arguing reciprocity, the ICRC will thus be able to negotiate directly with the Nazis to obtain the right to visit concentration camps without having to go through national Red Cross societies. In the meantime, Adolf Hitler’s troops invade Austria, which becomes part of Germany in March 1938, and the ÖRK has to merge with its German counterpart. The ICRC and the League of Red Cross Societies accept this anschluss without protest.

-1881-1919, Hungary: Led by Count Gyula Karolyi (1837-1890), the Hungarian Red Cross is created in 1881, one year after its Austrian counterpart. Given the dual power arrangement of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is recognized by the ICRC in 1882 despite the rule that allows for only one Red Cross per country. After World War One, the collapse of the monarchy and Hungary’s independence, the exemption is no longer necessary anyway. But the country’s internal conflicts lead the ICRC to intervene directly to take charge of political prisoners in addition to prisoners of war. Indeed, many people are arrested when Count Michael Karolyi resigns and a Hungarian Soviet Republic is declared in March 1919. Fortunately enough, the ICRC delegate to Budapest, Rodolphe Haccius, can assist both those incarcerated by Béla Kun’s Communist government, and those imprisoned by Romanian occupation troops after the fall of the Soviet Regime on the 1st of August 1919. His visits, which began on the 28th of April at Gyüstöfogház, are a first: unlike his counterpart Edouard Frick in Russia in May 1918, Rodolphe Haccius has official permission to see political prisoners who are nationals of the country. The initiative sets a precedent and, in April 1925, the ICRC will obtain authorisation from Belgrade to visit Montenegrin separatists imprisoned by the Yugoslavian government. At the request of Italian and Canadian lobbies that support the independence of Montenegro, Geneva will also innovate by publishing its inspection report in the Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge of June 1925.

-1882-1912, United States: While Washington finally ratifies the Geneva Convention in March 1882, almost twenty years after it was signed, Clarissa “Clara” Harlowe Barton (1821-1912) launches an American Association of the Red Cross which will be formalised by a federal amendment in June 1900 and become the American National Red Cross, better known as the ARC (American Red Cross). Such relief organisations already existed. During the Civil War, a United States Sanitary Commission had been established in June 1861, with a European branch in November 1863: from September 1870 to March 1871, it had helped the French when the Prussians laid the siege of Paris. But it was unable to obtain government approval for a real American Red Cross with a monopoly over private-sector wartime relief. The ARC, which provides food supplies during the Russian famine of 1891-1892, also experiences many difficulties. During pogroms against the Armenians in 1895-1896, Clara Barton manages to get approval from Tawfik Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Affairs Minister, to launch relief operations in Turkey on the condition that she accepts military escort. She is supposed to help both the Armenians and the Muslims. However, explains Ann Marie Wilson, she compromises her neutrality and is almost deported because she falls under the influence of American missionaries and denounces the massacre of “Christian martyrs” in the international press. During the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898, again, the ARC is criticised for its inefficiency and her leader is accused of misappropriating funds. Even the official historian of the institution, Foster Rhea Dulles, acknowledges that Clara Barton is not accountable and manages the organisation as a personnal asset. Her nephew, Stephen Barton, is vice president of the institution and, in December 1902, at the age of 82, she has herself elected as president for life in order to stave off her younger rivals, notably Mabel Thorp Boardman (1860-1946). Close to both the U.S. Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, and the sister of President Theodore Roosevelt, Anna Cowles, the latter is the daughter of bankers and she aims at raising funds in the business community. Moreover, she wants to professionalize the organisation and strengthen provincial chapters that were deliberately held back in order to maintain the pre-eminence of the national committee. Even though subsequent lawsuits are unsuccessful due to lack of proof, Clara Barton is eventually forced to resign in April 1904. Placed under the control of an 18-member central committee led by retired veterans, the ARC is then taken over by military officers, but not completely integrated into the army as recommended in a report by Major Walter McCaw. The organisation is thus presided in 1905 by Rear Admiral William Van Reypen (1840-1924), former Surgeon General of the Navy, followed in 1906 by General Robert Maitland O’Reilly (1845-1912), Surgeon General of the US Army, and in 1907-1915 by General George Whitefield Davis (1839-1918), a veteran of the Philippine War of Independence of 1898, governor of Puerto Rico in 1899 and the Panama Canal Zone from 1900 to 1905. State control of the ARC is endorsed at the highest level. In accordance with a law passed in 1905, the White House names the organisation’s president and chooses the directors of its Central Committee, which includes five representatives from the Departments of State, War, Treasury, Justice, and the Navy. In the field, the ARC now plays the role of an auxiliary to the authorities. After the San Francisco earthquake of 18 April 1906, for example, it distributes relief alongside the army; as a result, local residents and associations protest because they are excluded from the management of the crisis. At the time, the organisation is quite weak anyway: its budget does not exceed $20,000, of which only 10% come from members’ contributions despite attempts to develop fund-raising and professionalize the ARC with its new national director since 1908, Ernest Bicknell. In practice, accounts are overseen by the Department of Defense and approved by Congress. And ties with the military are steadily reinforced under the influence of New York Republicans. In 1911, a presidential decree makes ARC volunteers subject to the Army’s disciplinary code. In 1912, another decree confirmes the organisation’s monopoly to help the military during wartime. Given food and transportation by the federal government, ARC volunteers are effectively treated as civilian employees of the Army.

-1883-1928, Russia:  The president of the Russian Red Cross since 1874, Lieutenant General Alexandre Joseph Baumgarten, dies in 1883. He is replaced the following year by another military, Michel de Kaufmann, who commanded the Tsar’s army during the conquest of Central Asia in 1876. Inspired by Nikolai Ivanovitch Pirogov, a heroic doctor in the Crimean War of 1854, and founded in Saint Petersburg on 15 May 1867 as the “Russian Society for Relief to the War-Wounded”, the organisation is clearly dominated by the aristocracy and controlled by the army. Known as the Russian Red Cross from 1879 onwards, it sends volunteers during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871, the Balkan Wars against the Ottoman Empire in 1877-1878, the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the Anglo-Boer War in 1899. With a new charter adopted on 17 April 1893, it gains international recognition for hosting the Seventh International Conference of the Red Cross in 1902 in Saint Petersburg. However, in Russia, it looses prestige after the army is defeated by Japanese forces in Manchuria in 1905. As the revolutionary movement develops and threatens the regime of the Tsar, neither is the Russian Red Cross able to escape the divisions that tear the country apart. Thus, provincial assemblies (primarily composed of the nobility) and elected local governments (the zemstvo) each create their own Red Crosses. Meanwhile, the national organisation, pro-Tsar, is accused of embezzlement by the liberals and does not survive World War One. In March 1917, it is purged of its “reactionary” members and placed under the direct control of the Ministers of Defence and Public Health. In October, its properties are seized by the Bolshevists, then nationalised under the decrees of 6 January and 2 June 1918. Its headquarters are transferred to Moscow and many of its leaders are arrested. Lastly, it is forced to merge with a “Proletarian Red Cross” the following 8 September, and incorporate Red Guards without medical qualifications. As the Council of the People's Commissars denounce all political, economic, and military treaties concluded by the imperial regime, the rupture with the former organisation is total, in spite of a decree proclaiming continuity and signed by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov  “Lenin” on 7 August 1918. Led by Count Paul Ignatieff, the Tsarist Red Cross goes into exile in Paris and the ICRC has to deal exclusively with its Communist successor in Moscow, which is officially recognized by Geneva on 15 October 1921. As for the municipal Red Crosses that sprung up during the 1905 Revolution and were grouped in 1919 under the aegis of a Union called “Vozgor” (Vozrozhdennyi Soyuz zemstv i gorodov, a combination of zemstvo and towns), they disappear after the defeat of the Tsarist armies in Siberia and the Ukraine. In the territory of the former Russian empire, only states that obtain independence and escape the Bolshevist influence are able to create their own national societies, as in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, and for a brief period, Georgia. For the others, the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on 30 December 1922 leads to the inauguration, in May 1923, of a central governing body which runs all the Communist Red Crosses as part of a single organization, ending the bilateral agreements previously signed by the Russian, Byelorussian, and Ukrainian associations. This Alliance of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is officially recognized by the ICRC as the heir of the former Russian organization on 3 January 1928. It brings together the Red Crosses of Russia (1918), the Ukraine (1918), Armenia (1920), Belarus (1921), and Georgia (1923), and the Red Crescents of Azerbaijan (1923), Uzbekistan (1925), Turkmenistan (1926), Tajikistan (1929), and Kazakhstan (1937), before incorporating the Red Crosses of regions occupied by Soviet troops from 1940 onwards –namely Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and Moldavia. However, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, which specify that there can be only one national society per ratifying country, the ICRC refuses to recognize the individual member organizations of the Alliance of the Red Cross and Red Crescents Societies, arguing that the Soviet Federal Republics are not politically independent states.

-1884, Switzerland: After a 15-year hiatus, the Third International Conference of the Red Cross brings together 20 national societies in Geneva, celebrating the triumph of the nation-state. Subject to the will of the military, the Red Crosses have re-focused on their respective countries and gave up sending volunteers to armed conflicts that do not directly concern their government. Because of their close links to the powers-that-be, they also enjoy a monopolistic position and various fiscal facilities. Led by high-level civil servants and retired military officers, volunteers wear uniforms and regularly participate in army training exercises. Historian John Hutchinson considers this a failure and argues that charity got militarised instead of making war more humane. Indeed, Red Cross delegates do not plan to condemn states or national societies that violate the Geneva Convention. They refuse to give the ICRC a supranational coordinating role, yet do not succeed in establishing an International Federation, an idea evoked in Brussels as soon as 1876. Even Gustave Moynier embargoes for two years a Russian proposal to confirm the compulsory nature of relief work, give the ICRC force of law and replace it by a Committee bringing together representatives of national societies. This last recommendation annoys Geneva and is eventually rejected during the Fourth International Conference of the Red Cross held on 21 September 1887 in Karlsruhe, Germany.

-1885-1921, Thailand:  Led by Thanpuying Plien Pasakornravongs, the ladies of the Royal Siam Court convince King Chulalongkorn (Phra Chula Chom Klao Chao Yu Ha), also known as Rama V, to establish a relief society for wounded soldiers, the Sapa Unalom Daeng, which is the forerunner to the Thai Red Cross. Formally launched in April 1893 during a border war with French Indochina, the organisation is placed under royal patronage and presided by Queens Sawang Wadhana and Saovabha Bhongsri, two of King Rama V’s four wives. Called Sapa Unalom Daeng until 1910 and governed by a royal charter adopted in 1918, the Siamese Red Cross is officially recognised by the ICRC in May 1920 and the IFRC in April 1921 as the TRCS (Thai Red Cross Society).

-1886-1918, Japan: The National Society of the Red Cross, Nippon Sekijuji Sha, is recognised by the government and the ICRC when the Emperor ratifies the Geneva Convention in 1886. The organisation inherits another association, Hakuai Sha, created in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion and led by Count Tsunetami Sano (1822-1902), a Minister of Finance in 1880 and Agriculture in 1892. Unlike the Ottoman Empire or the Kingdom of Siam, the Japanese authorities have no real problems in adopting the Red Cross emblem instead of the symbol initially used: a sun rising over the horizon (two parallel, horizontal rectangles). They do, however, take control of the organisation. When a new civil code is put into place in 1898, the JRCS (Japanese Red Cross Society) becomes an official auxiliary to the army. From that moment on, it needs a permission of the Empress to work during peacetime and provide relief to victims of natural disasters. Presided until his death in 1902 by an inspector of the Japanese Army Sanitary Department, Tadanori Ishiguro, then by a former Minister of Finance, Count Masayoshi Matsukata, who develops its fundraising, the JRCS serves first and foremost military purposes. Quite efficient during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War, its volunteers receive fixed salaries, are subject to the army’s disciplinary code and are mobilised as reservists. A world record, the JRCS has more than one million members (as against 900,000 in 1903, 160,000 in 1895 and 37,000 in 1893) when war with Russia breaks out over Manchuria in 1905. On the winning side, it comes out of the conflict even more important than before. With two hospital ships, theHakuai Maru and the Kosai Maru, that were already in use during the Boxers Rebellion in China in 1900, the organisation treats wounded enemy soldiers throughout the fighting, especially sailors from the Russian cruiser Variag. It also takes care of prisoners of wars and send disabled soldiers back home through the Chinese town of Chefoo (now Yantai). The only recorded incident is during the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905, when the Russian Tsarist Red Cross complains about the Japanese Navy’s inspection and diversion of its two hospital ships, the Oryol and the Kostroma. At the time, Japan respects the Geneva Conventions so that it can take its place among “civilised” nations. By doing so, it also hopes to ward off the possibility of an intervention of Western powers alongside Russia over Manchuria. Under the direction of Empress Shoken, born Masako Ichijo (1849-1914), the Japanese Red Cross further serves to ease diplomatic relations. For instance, it gives donations to the victims of the 18 April 1906 earthquake in San Francisco in the United States. Likewise, it sends medical teams to help the Allied in Europe during Word War One. And it takes care of some 4,300 civilian and military German prisoners in China. The Swiss delegate of the ICRC in Tokyo until his death in February 1944, Doctor Fritz Paravicini, is thus able to visit them in July 1918 with interpreters of the JRCS, which funds his trip to prove that Japan pays respect to the Geneva Convention.

-1887, Portugal:  The ICRC recognises the local Red Cross, more than twenty years after its foundation in 1865 by an army surgeon who participated in signing the first Geneva Convention of 1864, Doctor José António Marques (1822-1884). Initially called the Comissão Portuguesa de Socorros a Feridos e Doentes Militares em Tempo de Guerra, the CVP (Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa) is not very active, hence the reluctance of Geneva to certify it. But the organisation has close ties to Portuguese military and colonial circles, with a former governor of Mozambique, Joaquim José Machado, among its ranks. Except for one jurist, professor Manuel António Moreira Júnior, from January 1909 to January 1911, the CVP is led for nearly a century by senior officers, including an admiral, Domingos Tasso de Figueiredo, from January 1911 to May 1916: Generals José Maria Baldy from August 1866 to September 1870, Augusto Xavier Palmeirim from October 1870 to May 1887, António Florêncio de Sousa Pinto from June 1887 to February 1890, António de Sampaio e Pina Freire de Brederode (Duke of Palmela) from October 1890 to November 1905, Francisco Maria da Cunha from November 1905 to January 1909, Joaquim José Machado from May 1916 to July 1924, and Tomaz António Garcia Rosado from August 1924 to January 1930. The CVP intervenes in all opposing camps during the many coups d’état and uprisings that occur between October 1910, when a republic is formed, and February 1919, when royalists seize the northern part of the country. However, it is taken over by the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, who comes to power in July 1932. Control of the CVP then passes to some of the regime’s high-ranking figures:  Henrique José Monteiro Mendonça from January 1930 to November 1942, Admiral Guilherme Ivens Ferraz from November 1942 to October 1948, General Fernando Pereira Coutinho from October 1948 to June 1956, Professor Leonardo de Sousa Costa Freire from October 1956 to August 1965, General Carlos Mario Sanches de Castro da Costa Macedo from April 1966 to March 1969 and an Army health corps manager, Ricardo Horta Júnior, from March 1969 to May 1974. After the fall of the dictatorship and the Carnation Revolutionin April 1974, the Portuguese Red Cross continues to be led by senior officers, despite the country’s new democratic status. It is thus presided by a brigadier, Armando José Marques Girao, from June 1974 to October 1974, a military doctor, António Fernandes Tender, from January 1975 to August 1981, a colonel, Raúl Duarte Cabarrão, from September 1981 to January 1986, a rear admiral, Doctor Luiz Gonzaga Pinto Canedo Soares Ribeiro from January 1986 to April 1993, and an army health services director, Professor José Manuel Carrilho Ribeiro, from July 1993 to July 1997. Civilians take control of the institution only lately. The first, a woman, is Maria de Jesus Simões Barroso Soares, from July 1997 to July 2003. Today, the CVP is presided by professional managers:  Luís Nogueira de Brito from July 2003 to March 2005 and Luís Eduardo da Silva Barbosa since June 2005.

-1888, Switzerland:  The ICRC officially adopts the motto Inter Arma Caritas, “Amidst War, Charity”. However, it experiences great difficulty in re-establishing dialogue between national societies since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Up until 1884, it was forced to repeatedly postpone holding an international conference of the Red Cross for fear that states would renege on pledges made in the Geneva Conventions of 1864 and 1868. The French and German relief committees had almost no contact with each other, while the British and American Red Crosses got independent and barely responded to letters sent by Geneva. In an attempt to remedy the situation, Gustaver Moynier, president of the ICRC, sets up a Standing Commission that brings together representatives from national societies and takes decisions by majority vote. From 1928 onwards, this group will also integrate a member of the board of the League of Red Crosses (where the Geneva Committee has no representative). Today known as the Council of Delegates, it aims to settle internal matters, such as the standardisation of the emblem and operating procedures.

-1889-1909, Congo-Kinshasa: An avid supporter of Belgium’s King Léopold II and his “Congo Free State”, Gustave Moynier serves as its consul to Geneva and recognises the existence of a “Congolese and African Association of the Red Cross” on behalf of the ICRC in 1889. But the new organisation elicits protests from colonial Portugal, which contests the name “African” because it seems to cover all the continent. Composed of Europeans, the association is eventually dissolved when the “Congo Free State” is transfered to Belgium in 1909. However, a local chapter of the Belgian Red Cross is later formed in 1923. Indeed, from 1901 onwards, the ICRC authorises the establishment in the colonies of “autonomous” branches that are considered as “correspondents”. Consequently, a South African Red Cross is set up in Cape Town in 1913, the first of a sery of many provincial organisations that develop in an independent fashion, each with its own budget and no central committee at the national level. On the African continent, the LNRCS (Liberian National Red Cross Society) also appears in 1919. As for the Ethiopian Red Cross, which is set up when the Negus signs the Geneva Convention in June 1935, it is simply an offshoot of the ICRC, a bit like the Montenegrin Red Cross in January 1876. Called Kay Mascal in Amharic, the organisation has only Western doctors. Except for its president Blatten Geta Hervy Woldeselassie, who is the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, its leader is a protestant missionary, Thomas Lambie, and seven out of fifteen members of its board are European expatriates. Officially launched by a royal decree of 8 July 1935 and recognised by the ICRC the following 26 September, the organisation will not last long. Designed to supply an army that has only one doctor for 5,000 soldiers, as against 200 on the Italian side, the Ethiopian Red Cross will disappear when the Fascists invade Addis-Ababa in July 1936. Compelled to deny his allegations on Italian violations of the International Humanitarian Law, Thomas Lambie will then betray his organisation and blame its inexperience.

-From 1890, Netherlands: Baron Karl Jan Gijsbert van Hardenbroek van Bergambacht (1830-1908) becomes president of the Dutch Red Cross in 1890, following Cornelius Theodorus van Meurs (1799-1894) from 1882 onwards, François Vincent Henri Antoine van Stuers (1792-1881) from 1872 onwards, and Joanes Bosscha (1797-1874) from 1869 onwards. The organisation was originally set up on 19 July 1867 by Jan Hendrik Christiaan Basting, an Army surgeon major who translated Henry Dunant’s book on the Battle of Solferino. Initially, it was dominated by the aristocracy and military circles. Its two presidents prior to 1890, Cornelius Theodorus van Meurs and François Vincent Henri Antoine van Stuers, were respectively Minister of War and Lieutenant General. After gaining official recognition from the ICRC in 1868, the Dutch Red Cross (Nederlandse Rode Kruis) also received considerable support from the monarchy. Thus royal decrees of 1909 and 1913 widen the scope of its activities, so that the organisation can provide community services and carry out first aid during natural disasters. In addition, Prince Consort Henri, Duke of Mecklembourg-Schwerin and Queen Wilhelmina’s husband, is named president of the Nederlandse Rode Kruis in 1913.

-From 1891, Norway: Set up on 22 September 1865 to provide relief to wounded soldiers, the Norwegian Red Cross decides in 1891 to extend its activities to peacetime and to raise funds for public sanitation. With General Johan Fredrik Thaulow (1840-1912), its president from 1889 to 1905, it thus launches a nurse training programme in 1895. Nevertheless, the NRK (Norges Røde Kors) keeps close ties to the military, as it was led from 1865 to 1880 by Frederik Stang (1808-1884), the head of government, and from 1880 to 1889 by Christian August Selmer (1816-1889), a very conservative Minister of Defence who supported the King’s right of veto and emergency laws. In 1895, for instance, the organisation obtains official permission to provide medical assistance to wounded soldiers during wartime. This special relationship is confirmed by a decree passed in 1907, two years after Norway got independent from Sweden. As it becomes more operational, the organisation sends its first ambulance abroad during the 1912 Balkan War. And it remains very close to the governement. Apart from Andreas Martin Seip, a lawyer who led the organisation between 1908 and 1912, all NRK’s presidents are conservative or liberal politicians: from 1905 to 1908, Ernst Motzfeldt (1843-1915), who was Minister of Justice in 1894-1895; from 1912 to 1913, Kristian Wilhelm Engel Bredal Olssøn (1844-1915), who was Minister of Defence in 1893-1898 and 1905-1907; from 1913 to 1917, Hans Jørgen Darre-Jenssen (1864-1950), who was Minister of Labour in 1910-1912; and from 1922 to 1930, Torolf Prytz (1858-1938), who was Minister of Industry in 1917-1918 and whose predecessor from 1917 to 1922, Hieronymus Heyerdahl (1867-1959), was the Mayor of Oslo in 1912-1914. Between 1930 and 1940, the NRK is then presided by a colonel, Jens Meinich, who develops first aid services from 1932 onwards. When the country is invaded by Germany in 1940, however, the organisation splits in two. Some members flee into exile in England, while the others remain at home to carry on relief activities under the aegis of Fridtjof Heyerdahl (1879-1949) until 1945, an engineer and a former manager of Siemens Company in Norway. Pressed into collaborating with the Germans by Vidkun Quisling’s pro-Nazi party in 1942, the NRK is finally reunited once the war is over. Led by Nikolai Nissen Paus (1877-1956), a famous surgeon and president until 1947, the organisation is still close to the military. During the Cold War, its activities abroad are determined by Norway’s membership in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation). Under Erling Steen, president from 1947 to 1957, it sends medical teams to assist American troops in the Korean War, for instance. With three exceptions – Ulf Styren from 1957 to 1966, Hans Høegh from 1975 to 1981 and Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg from 1993 to 1998 – all NRK’s presidents are military officers: from 1966 to 1975, a director of Army medical services, Torstein Dale (1907-1975); from 1981 to 1987, a general in the secret services, Bjørn Egge (1918-2007); from 1987 to 1993, an admiral, Bjørn Bruland; and since 1998, a Minister of Defence, Thorvald Stoltenberg.

-1892, Italy: Held in Rome, the Fifth International Conference of the Red Cross confirms the development of the CRI (Croce Rossa Italiana) since the foundation of a “relief society for the war wounded” (Comitato dell'Associazione Italiana per il soccorso ai feriti ed ai malati in guerra) by Doctor Cesare Castiglioni in Milan in 1864. Thanks to strong support from the authorities, the organisation was given semi-governmental status in a law passed on 30 May 1882. As part of the Army, it is supervised by the Ministers of War and the Navy, and it is given unlimited access to post, telegraph and rail services during wartime. Like its French and Belgian counterparts, it has strong aristocratic leanings and is run along the lines of a family business. The presidency passes from father to son and, instead of being doctors, its leaders are deputies, senators or generals. Examples include Counts like Gian Luca Cavazzi Della Somaglia (1841-1896) from 1886 onwards; Rinaldo de Taverna (1839-1913) from 1896 onwards; and Gian Giacomo Cavazzi Della Somaglia (1869-1918) from 1913 onwards.

-1893, Austria: In September 1893, the ICRC boycotts an international congress in Vienna that aims at bringing together religious and non-religious relief organisations for the victims of natural disasters. Respectively members of the Austrian Red Cross and the International Agency of Basel, two German and Swiss doctors, Theodor Billroth (1829-1894) and Auguste Socin (1837-1899), are behind this initiative. But despite plans to recognise the Geneva Committee’s supremacy during wartime, the ICRC fiercely opposes any proposal that could infringe on its prerogatives. Likewise, it refuses to take part in an organisation, the International Society of the White Cross, which is set up in Geneva in 1907 by Charles Vuille (1856-1920), a Swiss lawyer, and François Deloncle (1856-1922), a French Member of Parliament for the Basses-Alpes, in order to eliminate threats to “people’s moral and physical health”.

-1895-1915, Sweden: In 1895, Queen Consort Sofia Wilhelmina Mariana Henrietta of Nassau (1836-1912) succeeds in preventing a military clash with Norway, which will become independent of Sweden in 1905. Crowned in 1873, this strong personality of the Swedish monarchy follows Florence Nightingale’s example and opened a nursing school in 1884. Her philanthropic initiatives rival those of the local Red Cross, which was set up in 1865. In 1900, for instance, she sets up a “Queen Sofia Society for assistance to Army and Navy health services during wartime”. The organisation is quite a success. In comparison, the SRK (Svenska Röda Korset) attracts less members. To resolve the problem, a decree passed in 1906 has to group under one banner the Red Cross’ female members, nurses and health volunteers. In 1913, another decree finally merges the SRK and the “Queen Sofia Society”.

-From 1896, Germany: Baron Boro von dem Knesebeck (1851-1911) takes control of the German Red Cross, remaining its president until his death. He consolidates the organisation’s position thanks to his influence and his connection with Empress Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (1858-1921). Very involved in charity work because it allows her to escape the influence of her in-laws, the wife of Kaiser William II, who took the throne in 1888, plays an active role in supporting the German Red Cross, which was placed under military control in 1878. She also funds the ICRC through a foundation which was set up in her name in 1890 and whose revenue amounted to 90,000 Swiss Francs in 1902, as against 71,000 in 1901 and 11,000 in 1914. Consequently, Germany can pride itself on having the most powerful Red Cross in Europe. During World War One, the organisation mobilises 133,000 men and 118,000 women, compared to 63,000 humanitarian workers in France and 20,000 in Britain. In the 1920s, it then assists the victims of the economic crisis as the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, forbade all contact between the German Red Cross and the military.

-1897-1985, Uruguay: Founded by a woman, Aurelia Ramos de Segarra, in the midst of a civil war in 1897, the CRU (Cruz Roja Uruguaya) is quickly recognised by the government in Montevideo, which signs the Geneva Convention in 1900. Predominantly female, the organisation’s volunteers are active during a revolution in 1898, the Carmelo border conflict with Argentina in 1899, and political unrest in 1903 and 1904. However, the ICRC has little or no contact with such relief societies in Latin America. Thus it did not intervene at all between 1865 and 1870, when Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil waged a bitter war against Paraguay, killing 80% of its male population! Only in the 1960s does the ICRC begin to visit Tupamaros political prisoners in Montevideo. For instance, the Committee is called on to help negotiate the release of Doctor Claude Fry, a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) employee abducted by the rebels on 7 August 1970 and accused of working for the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). But the Tupamaros ignore the mediation of Geneva. If they release Doctor Claude Fry in March 1971, it is only to improve their image after another American hostage, Dan Mitrione, died in August 1970. The situation does not improve either after the Parliament is dissolved and the military take over in June 1973. In April 1976, the ICRC prisons visits are discontinued until Geneva negotiates a right of access to political prisoners in December 1979. But in 1980, a confidential report on “Libertad” Prison, written by delegate Jean-François Labarthe, is leaked to the public, probably by the CRU. This puts a stop to visits to political prisoners, and keeps the ICRC out of the country until 1983. The Committee eventually ends its activities in Uruguay after the government declares a general amnesty in March 1985.

-1898, Cuba: The ARC (American Red Cross) tries to assist the reconcentrados who are held since 1895 into makeshift camps in order to quash a rural uprising against the Spanish colonial rule. But the director of the organisation, Clara Barton, is accused of favouring the rebels and expelled from Cuba on 15 February 1898. At the same time, the explosion of the Maine cruiser in La Havana harbour triggers an American-Spanish war. So the ARC comes back to Cuba with an hospital ship Le Moynier, named in honour of the ICRC president. This move provides the first opportunity to test the additional articles of 1868, which include maritime war in the 1864 Geneva Convention. The problem is that Le Moynier is used as a cover to clear a path for US warships sent by Washington. Diverted from La Havana to Santiago, it is not able to unload supplies until June 1898. While Spanish authorities deny food shortages in order to force the ARC to pay customs duties, the crew also faces reluctance from some American military officers who are unhappy about the interference of civilian volunteers, particularly female ones. A humanitarian worker of the organisation is eventually killed during a delivery of medical supplies to El Caney in 1899.

-1899, Holland: Delegates at the Hague Peace Conference agree on the need for an international court of justice to provide an alternative to war in settling disputes between states. This seems to reinforce the position of ICRC, which had to focus on relief instead of disarmament after the Sixth International Conference of the Red Cross held in Vienna, Austria, in 1897. Indeed, the Hague Conference covers maritime law and gives force to the 1864 Geneva Convention’s additional articles of 1868, which had limited success to date. For instance, it forbids the capture of hospital ships that belong to warring parties or to the Red Cross. In addition, it neutralizes and protects medical personnel on board warships. Generally speaking, the Hague Conference is more instrumental than the Geneva Conventions in extending the ICRC mandate to cover prisoners of war (and not just the war-wounded). However, it focuses on limiting the fighting rather than helping the victims. The ICRC general secretary and Swiss envoy, Edouard Odier, just manages to ensure that the Geneva Conventions still organize relief services to the wounded, the ill and the prisoners of war. Fearing states would withdraw support for the 1864 Convention, the Committee thus prefers to perpetuate humanitarian rules rather than improving them. Its conservative position also reflects a desire to maintain its exclusive control against Henri Dunant, who is exiled to Paris and involved in the Hague Peace Conference. Hence the ICRC had already rejected a competitive initiative of Henri Dunant and Tsarist Russia, the “Brussels Declaration on War Laws and Customs”, signed on 27 August 1874 but not ratified by any state. At the Hague Peace Conference, the Geneva Committee regrets that the delegates vaguely mention “relief societies” to take care of soldiers captured by the enemy. Nowhere is the Red Cross referred to by name, thus leaving the way open for Henri Dunant and his Society for the improvement of prisoners of war (Société pour l’amélioration du sort des prisonniers de guerre), which only exists on paper.

-1900-1901, South Africa: The ICRC is not allowed to provide direct relief during the Anglo-Boer War that breaks out in 1899 between British settlers and Afrikaner farmers of Dutch origin. In 1900, London thus opposes attempts by the Committee to set up an international agency in the capital city of neighbouring Mozambique. As a result, the organisation can only provide donations to both sides, even if it does not officially recognise the Red Cross societies of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. On the field, most volunteers are from the British rather than the Dutch Red Cross, which had previously offered assistance to the Afrikaners during another conflict in the Transvaal in 1881. In the case of the British Red Cross, efforts turn out to be disastrous. Crates are stolen in the ports where supplies are unloaded. And Red Cross armbands are distributed to untrustworthy individuals. According to an investigation by the British government, there were no embezzlement but significant coordination problems. Lack of neutrality is another issue: because of their Irish origin, 56 members of the American Red Cross show hostility towards the English and decide to fight with the Boers. As for Alfred Ernest William Rambsbottom (1860-1921), a doctor from an Irish family and the founding president of the Orange Free State Red Cross, he is captured by the British and transferred to Cape Town. Generally speaking, neither the ICRC nor national societies succeed in protecting Afrikaner war victims: 42,000 civilians detained by the English die in concentration camps, including 16,000 Blacks and 20,000 children under the age of sixteen. Indeed, the Boer families that already lived in British provinces, i.e. the Cape and Natal, are suspected of supporting the rebels and considered as traitors to the Crown. Paradoxically, combatants from Transvaal and the Orange Free State are better off. Although they do not wear uniforms, they are the only ones to be treated as prisoners of war, and they are still protected when they continue a guerrilla warfare after their territories came under British rule in October and May 1900 respectively.

-From 1901, the Philippines: Following the Spanish-American War of 1898-1899, Washington takes control of the Philippines in 1901 and let the American Red Cross (ARC) establish itself in the country. As for the ICRC, it never responded to requests by the Spanish Red Cross in March 1899 to help free Spanish citizens imprisoned by Filipino guerrillas. Nor had it recognized the local Red Cross formed in February 1899 by the rebels who, once free of the colonial yoke, opposed Washington’s interference and proclaimed a short-lived republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Inspired by Henry Dunant, this organisation was set up by Emilio Aguinaldo’s wife, Hilaria del Rosario, and his prime minister, lawyer Apolinario Mabini. Its special envoy to Europe, Don Felipe Agoncille, was dispatched to Madrid in January 1900 to gain the Spanish Red Cross’ support, then, in the following August, to Geneva to meet with Gustave Moynier. However, the ICRC rejected the Philippines’ demand, under the pretext that the country was not recognised by the international community and consequently could not formally sign the Geneva Convention. Reflecting the colonial views of the times, the Committee did not follow up the case and gave preference to the ARC, whose leader Clara Barton was tangled up in personal problems while the Filipino Red Cross dissolved after Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture in March 1901. As a result, the Geneva Convention was never applied to the Philippine conflict, despite all the best intentions of the rebels, the last of whom surrendered under the leadership of General Miguel Malvar in April 1902. Left as the only Red Cross in the country, the ARC is thus able to launch in August 1905 a Filipino chapter, one of its 15 regional divisions. Placed under the supervision of Mabel Boardman and William Howard Taft, American Secretary of War and first civilian governor of the Philippines, this organisation is entirely composed of expatriates and records a high turnover. All but two of its board members are high-level civil servants. And its president is the Governor General of the Philippines: first Luke Wright, then James Smith in October 1906, and William Cameron from November 1910. In such a context, the organisation has little chance to prosper. After briefly providing aid to tornado victims in October 1905, it becomes inactive and nearly disappears when its board stops to meet. Thanks to support from the American Red Cross, it can only send relief to those who survive an eruption of the Taal Volcano which causes 1,335 deaths on 30 January 1911. But it is not operational and cannot raise funds to help victims of political troubles without express authorisation from the government. When the Filipinos are finally allowed to elect their own representatives and senators, a law voted on 4 February 1916 to create a Red Cross national society is immediately invalidated by Washington. Indeed, the ARC Constitution does not permit other associations to use the Red Cross emblem on “American territory”. The Philippines, considered an integral part of the United States, are no exception. So the local Red Cross is reorganised in 1917 as a separate chapter of the ARC, presided by Governor Francis Burton Harrison. From then on, only one government official seats on its board. And, for the first time, in October 1918, it is presided by a civilian, businessman Horace Pond. As it spreads throughout the country, the organisation begins to win public approval with 200,000 donors in 1918, 7000 of whom are Americans expatriates. Led by Francis Garrett from 1918, then by Charles Hancock Forster from 1923 to 1943, the organisation develops public health programmes and a highly successful youth division which registers 750,000 members in 1922 and up to 1,025,000 in 1929 (as against 67,000 and 75,000 adult members respectively). Presided by Charles Mason Cotterman from 1919 and Thomas Wolff from 1936 to 1942, it nevertheless remains dependent upon the ARC. Its internal regulations, for instance, are modified in 1920 to correspond word for word to those of the home organisation. Likewise, its director throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Hancock Forster (1878-1946), is a former manager for the foreign divisions of the ARC. And the civilian governor of the Philippines in 1929-1932, Dwight Davis, assumes in 1930 the right to appoint four members to the executive committee of the Filipino organisation, allocating land to build headquarters in Manila. In 1923, then again in 1931, the authorities scupper every attempt to establish a Red Cross national society that is truly independent of its American mentor. In 1936, one year after a Filipino government led by Manuel Quezon was formed, the organisation can only change its name and logo by removing its adherence to the ARC, now put into brackets. Increasing nationalist sentiments cause tensions to rise. President Manuel Quezon does not want money received by the Philippine Red Cross to be managed by the ARC. In January 1938, he creates an office to coordinate the relief work and fundraising of the public and private sectors. A year later, he threatens to stop the Christmas collection drive and to put the organisation on the verge of bankruptcy if it does not increase the number of Filipino members on its board. The Second World War finally solves this deadlock when the Americans leave and the Japanese invade the Philippines. Seizing the opportunity, the government creates its own Filipino Red Cross society on 15 April 1942. Presided by Jose Paez and directed by Don Alejandro Roces, then Vicente Madrigal, the new structure has three Japanese on its board but keeps on the personnel and appropriates the assets of the former organisation without agreement from the ARC, which is no longer permitted to send funds to or work in the country. With a small amount of American money received via the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo, it attempts to provide supplies to US citizens held by occupation troops. In June 1942, however, access is denied to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp. The Philippine Red Cross faces its most difficult hour when the Japanese retreat. During the battle for control of Manila on 10 February 1945, its headquarters are assailed by Japanese soldiers who look for refuge and who gun down the caretaker, Marcelino Guevara, and a surgeon, doctor German de Venecia, who was performing an operation. Of the 39 children placed under the responsibility of Philippine Red Cross volunteer Teresa Nava, only 26 survive the bombs and fires that destroy the city. Held in Santo Tomas, two Americans who were collaborating with the organisation, Alfred Duggleby and Carroll Grinnell, are also killed before their camp is liberated on 3 February 1945. The Philippine Red Cross also loose 15 other members, namely Antonio Alberto, Antonio Barbeyto, Juan Miguel Elizalde, Antonio Escoda, Josefa Llanes Escoda, Natti Perez Rubio Fox, Jose Miranda Gonzales, Guillermo Manalang, Angustias Vaca de Mencarini, Joaquin Mencarini, Sue Noell, Maria Orosa, Enrico Pirovano, Rafael Santo Domingo and Carmen de Vera. Once the Japanese are defeated, the organisation is quickly re-established as a chapter of the ARC, presided by Thomas Wolff from July 1945, then General Basilio Valdes from July 1946. Temporarily called PhilCross, it is integrated into the American Army’s civil affairs department. Despite a Philippines’ formal declaration of independence on 12 July 1946, the organisation is to remain under the control of the ARC, which pays expatriate salaries in full and provides Directors Leo Whilhelm from June 1945 and Glen Whisler from January 1946. It is not until a law is passed on 22 February 1947 that the Philippines National Red Cross (PNRC) is finally established as an independent entity and recognized as such by the ICRC, four days after Manila ratified the Geneva Convention. For the first time, the organisation is both directed and presided by Filipinos, respectively Horacio Yanzon (a dentist) from December 1946, and Aurora Aragon-Quezon (wife of the country’s former president) from September 1946. But the organisation does not escape the political tensions that tear the country apart. PNRC president Aurora Aragon-Quezon is killed on 28 April 1949 during an ambush by the Huks Communist rebels. She is replaced by Colonel Manuel Lim, a minister who decides to dispatch a team of volunteers as part of the Philippines Expeditionary Forces that fight alonside the Americans against the Chinese during the Korean War. In the same vein, the organisation’s presidents change according to the governments, who appointed them. Thus Minister Juan Salcedo Junior, who headed the PNRC from 1951, is replaced by his successor to the Ministry of Health, Paulino Garcio, shortly after elections bring Ramon Magsaysay to power in 1953. Subsequent presidents are a bit more technocratic, with Geronima Pecson from 1961, Emilio Abello from 1964, and Fernando Sison from 1969. But they do not escape government interference during the Cold War, given their country’s alliance with the United States. Abroad, the PNRC clearly serves the interests of Manila and Washington by sending relief to refugees who flee the Communist regimes of North Vietnam in 1954 and Hungary in 1956. When the Philippine army is deployed to fight alongside the Americans in South Vietnam, the organisation is entrusted with a C47 cargo plane to fly supplies to Saigon and Vientiane during Operation Brotherhood. Within the Philippines, the PNRC collaborates closely with the military too, and one of its nurses, Rosario Sotto, is killed during a Huk attack on Camp Makabulos in Tarlac on 25 August 1950. A decree passed on 18 November 1952 clarifies the division of duties: the organisation is responsible for distributing aid during natural disasters, while the government is supposed to assist victims of political upheavals. Reaffirmed by a presidential decree of 1 October 1979, such an exclusive relationship with the army highlights the military functions of the PNRC. Created in June 1920 and reorganized in August 1945, a special service of the organisation thus takes care of wounded soldiers and their families. From 1956 to 1969, the PNRC is also to redistribute funds paid by Tokyo as compensation to former Filipino prisoners of war, in line with a peace treaty signed between the United States and Japan in September 1951. During this period, the organisation experiences problems of governance since a law enacted on 11 June 1953 called for biennial rather than annual meetings. Its board of directors forces Doctor Feliciano Cruz, who had taken over from Horacio Yanzon in April 1954, to resignand be replaced by Telesforo Calasanz in December 1957. The organisation does not democratize either after the election of dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos in November 1965. In 1964, it creates a secretary general position which is first occupied by Telesforo Calasanz, then Loreto Paras Sulit from 1968, Vicente Galvez from 1976 and Generoso Caridad from 1982. Despite the 1971 Law 6373 that increases the size of its board of directors and reduces the number of co-opted members, the PNRC becomes militarised after martial law is imposed in 1972. In keeping with the 1979 Decree 1643, the chief of state appoints six of its 30 board members, including a maximum of three mandatory army representatives. Presided from 1973 by Antonio Quirino, a judge related to a former head of state, followed in 1976 by General Romeo Espino, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, the PNRC is tightly controlled by the dictatorship. After losing one of its managers, Faustino Mercado, in a plane crash in 1967, it helps to contain the uprising of Muslim minorities in the south (Mindanao) and Communist guerrillas in the north (Luzon). It thus supplies “strategic” hamlets where peasants are watched and forced to group to deprive the rebels of popular support, while local leaders seize this opportunity to grab the land left vacant. Intensified fighting leads the ICRC to establish a regional delegation in Manila in January 1982, and to develop a more sustainable partnership with the PNRC. The Geneva Committee, which had briefly assisted Huks imprisoned at Makati in Manila in 1959, focus its activities on three areas: conducting visits to political prisoners, helping internally displaced persons, and aiding Vietnamese boat people who land in Morong near the American Subic Bay military base in Bataan province. After martial law was declared in 1972, ICRC delegates were authorised to conduct regular inspections of detention centres throughout the country. Except in 1975 and 1979, they return each year to visit prisoners of conscience, a mission they will continue even after the dictatorial regime falls in 1986. From December 1980 onwards, they are also authorised to assist detainees held in military camps, in addition to civilian prisons. In 1978, the Geneva Committee makes the PNRC responsible for distributing aid to displaced families, especially in Mindanao where the organisation supplies about 700,000 individuals that year alone. Such operations occasionally touch northern Luzon in 1986, as well as Samar in 1980 and Negros in 1989, two islands of the Visayas archipelago. Fighting makes access to the field difficult, especially in Mindanao where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) struggles for independence. On 5 May 1987 in the province of Lanao del Sur, a team of two ICRC delegates and five PNRC nurses are kidnapped but quickly released. Three years later in Buldon, also on Mindanao Island, another delegate of Geneva, Walter Berweger, and his Philippine Red Cross counterpart, Juanito Patong, are killed. As for the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the north, it refuses until 1990 to let the ICRC visit prisoners under its control. Fortunately, peace negotiations advance and the overall situation improves when a new government is elected in 1986, after the fall of dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. In a declaration dated 15 August 1991, Luis Jalandoni, the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) vice president of international affairs, expresses the NPA’s desire to respect the Geneva Conventions. In August 1998, the government too decides to give the Communist combatants “warring party” status. Yet negotiations in Mindanao with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), that begin in October 1996, are blocked because of the very same issue: whether to apply the Geneva Conventions to the rebels. In April 2000, the government resumes hostilities against Islamist guerrillas who, unlike the MNLF, refuse to lay down their arms. As a result, the ICRC, which had transferred its relief activities to the PNRC in 1991, returns to Mindanao and opens an office in Davao. As they return from Patikul Prison in Jolo in the Sulu region, three of its employees, a Swiss (Andreas Notter), an Italian (Eugene Vagni) and a Filipino (Marie-Jean Lacaba), are kidnapped by Islamic militants from the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf on 15 January 2009. Meanwhile, the PNRC changed a lot to become more professional since it created an operations department in 1977 and built new administrative headquarters for the 24th International Conference of the Red Cross in Manila in 1981. As internal evaluations of 1985 and 1989 highlighted shortcomings in matters of sanitization, training first-aid workers, and health education, the organisation decides to develop programmes for psychosocial relief, rather than focusing on emergencies and material aid only. After an earthquake that kills 1,050 people in Luzon Island on 16 July 1990, for example, the PNRC tries to find long-term solutions by building primary schools, water systems, and houses in Baguio and Caranglan. The organisation also becomes more democratic and less militarized as it begins to give to homeless children and poor families a social welfare package that used to be reserved for the army. In the same vein, the PNRC helps civilian demonstrators who take the streets of Manila to demand the end of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos’ dictatorship in February 1986. Three volunteers are then hurt while they try to aid victims during two separate coup d’état attempts in January 1987 and December 1989. From an institutional point of view, the PNRC renews its workforce and shortens its presidents’ terms of office after being led for 20 years by Romeo Espino: to an activist, Mario Nery from 1996, succeeds a judge, Leonorines Luciano from 1998, a general, Jaime Canatoy from 2002, and a former mayor of Olongapo (the city devastated by Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991), Richard Gordon from 2004. This evolution also affects the organisation’s secretary generals, with Gloria Balbin Senador from 1990, Celso Samson from 1993, Lourdes Reinoso Loyala from 1996, Victor Liozo from 2004 and Corazon Alma de Leon from 2006. From a gender point of view, the leadership of the PNRC is quite balanced too, with female presidents like Geronima Pecson from 1961 and Leonorines Luciano from 1998. The key secretary general position is often occupied by women: a nurse, Gloria Balbin Senador; a social worker, Lourdes Reinoso Loyala; and a civil servant, Corazon Alma de Leon. With 94 regional branches in 2007 (against 85 in 1999, 83 in 1989, 78 in 1979 and 59 in 1969), the PNRC has also a core staff of 700 compared to 500 during the 1997 financial crisis, which led to a hiring freeze. Grasroots develop. In the mid-2000s, the organisation claims to have more than 100,000 volunteers and hopes to mobilise a million by 2009. Although these figures are inflated because they include blood donors and inactive members, the PNRC certainly becomes more independent of the government, which funds half of its budget in the mid-1980s, compared to only a quarter to one-third in the 1990s. Unlike other Red Cross societies in Asia, which remain very dependent upon government subsidies, the PNRC is able to attract donations from the private sector by developing its fundraising capacity from 1998 onwards. Thanks to a better management, its overhead ratio varies between 20 and 15 percent since the end of the 1990s, and its overall budget increases from 17.8 million PHP in 1983 to 28.5 in 1984, 28.4 in 1987, 37.8 in 1988, 117.7 in 1996, 167.9 in 1997, 188.8 in 1998, 231.4 in 1999, 243.5 in 2000, 308.4 in 2001, 312.3 in 2002, 319.7 in 2003, 440.7 in 2004 and 526.9 in 2005. Structurally, however, the PNRC remains close to the powers that be, regardless of the regime in place. It is still sponsored by the head of state and its president Richard Gordon is a former nationalist opponent who became a senator and joined the dominant party in 2004. As for the government, it continues to appoint six of the 30 members of the PNRC’s board, the others being co-opted or elected for four-year terms by regional delegates during biennial conventions.

-From 1902, Canada: After the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, where it intervened in 1900 and 1901, the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS) returns to its previous lethargy. Founded in 1885 by a military surgeon, George Sterling Ryerson (1855-1925), during the North West Rebellion of Louis Riel, the organisation’s first members were doctors such as Norman Bethune (1822-1892), who helped Henry Dunant to take care of survivors at the Battle of Solferino in Italy in 1859. But George Sterling Ryerson politicized the CRCS as a conservative, anti-Catholic, pro-British member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario between 1893 and 1898. Although the organisation was established as a chapter of the British Red Cross in 1896 and presided by John Morrison Gibson until 1914, it remained inactive until 1899, despite some attempts to send relief abroad during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Officially recognised by the Canadian government in 1909, it becomes more operational during World War One. Led by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Marshall until 1920, it assists troops sent to the European front in 1914, especially in Boulogne sur Mer, France. The organisation’s budget increases from £141,000 in 1915 to £257,000 in 1916, £386,000 in 1917 and £388,000 in 1918, excluding non-monetary donations. Although a francophone branch was set up in Quebec in 1912, the CRCS remains mainly Anglo-Saxon: based in Toronto, it is presided by Doctor George Sterling Ryerson from January 1914 to January 1916, Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia (wife of the governor of Canada, later known as the Duchess of Connaught) from February 1916 to July 1917, and Colonel Noel Marshall from September 1920 onwards. After the war, James Robertson takes over leadership, but it is not until 1927 that the CRCS is recognised by the ICRC as an autonomous organisation, accepted into the League of Red Cross Societies in 1929. The Canadian Red Cross finally earns its stripes during World War Two, when a quarter of the Canadian population joins as active members.

-1903, Macedonia:  The ICRC does not respond to calls from insurgents who, led by Gotse Delchev and supported by Sofia, are fighting for independence against the Turks. It prefers to fund relief efforts through the intermediary of established aid societies: in this case, the Bulgarian Red Cross, and not the Ottoman Red Crescent, which is to be presided by General Faik Pacha Della Sudda from 1906. Nearly a century goes by before the ICRC recognises, in 1995, the Macedonian Red Cross, three years after this organisation got independent from the Yugoslavian Red Cross constituted in 1945.

-1904-1927, China:  A national society of the Red Cross, called Tchoung-kano-loung-tsou-shitz-homi, is established on 29 May 1904. Made up of foreign missionaries, it is not recognised by the ICRC because it does not cover the whole territory and has no support from the Emperor, who has not yet signed the Geneva Convention. After the proclamation of a republic by Sun Yat-sen on 1 January 1912, the organisation is barely operational when China joins the Allied Forces against Germany in August 1917. It is also too small to handle the casualties of the battles between General Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists from August 1927 onwards.

-1905, Namibia, Morocco:  like Gustave Moynier, who never protested against Belgian abuses in Congo, the ICRC makes no comment on the 1904 genocide of Herero people in the colony of “German South West Africa”. On the contrary, it congratulates relief workers from the Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (DRK) who were deployed alongside German troops and did nothing to help the local population. In the same vein, the ICRC does not attempt to check German allegations about atrocities by British and French colonial troops during World War One. Reflecting racist views of the times, the International Bulletin of the Red Cross, in its issue of June 1916, compare them to the pogroms led by Turkish Muslims against Christian Armenians. As a matter of fact, the Geneva Committee is biased and pays no interest to massacres committed by imperialist powers to “civilize” the African continent. From July 1921 to May 1926, the Rif War in Morocco is a perfect example. Pablo La Porte notes that, as late as July 1924, the ICRC still denies that a conflict even exists. Asserting that it does not have enough information and that it is an “internal” issue pitting Abdelkrim El-Khattabi’s rebels against Spanish and French colonial forces, the Committee simply sends one delegate, Raymond Schlemmer, in November 1924. Yet it is not authorised to go beyond the international zone in Tangiers, where the British Red Cross already cares for the wounded. Focusing its diplomatic efforts on Madrid and Paris, the ICRC bypasses the Moroccan sultan, who nevertheless remains sovereign leader of the country. It also ignores requests for aid by Abdelkrim El-Khattabi, which are transmitted in May 1925 by British Captain Gordon Canning. Despite the increasing pressure of Western public opinion, and contrary to its response to the Irish crisis in April 1923, the Committee does not try to force cooperation from the local Red Crosses that block all attemps by Geneva to intervene. In the November 1925 issue of its International Bulletin, the ICRC claims to have never received any requests for aid on behalf of the rebels. The lies are soon exposed by the Swedish press and the institution is forced to react: in May 1926, it sends Raymond Schlemmer to the French zone of the Rif, where the conflict has spread to in April 1925, and from where the delegate of Geneva is soon to be expelled. In any case, it is too little, too late. The conflict ends without the ICRC attempting to provide any relief to the rebels or denouncing the use of mustard gas by colonial troops. According to Irène Hermann and Daniel Palmieri, it is not until 1968, during the Nigerian Civil War, that the Committee will begin to show any interest in the fate of African victims. In the meantime, its advocacy against genocide is selective. In 1915, it favours Armenian Christians as Turkish Muslims joined forces with Germany, while the ICRC’s president, Gustave Moynier, sided with France. But despite protests by some individual delegates who are empathetic towards the victims’ suffering, the institution will keep a much lower profile regarding Jews in Germany in 1944 and the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. With such a racial prejudice, it will thus continue to regard Africa as a backward continent. During an official tour in February-April 1962, for instance, the ICRC’s president, Samuel Gonard, spoke only with colonial authorities and never attempted to talk to the indigenes.

-1906-1907, Switzerland:  A revision of the 1864 Geneva Convention eliminates Article 5, which exempted homes from being requisitioned by the army when they were used to care for the wounded. No longer protected by their neutrality, relief workers are now placed under military and governmental control to keep civilian personnel away from the battlefield. Geoffroy Best, a specialist in the law of war, notes that national Red Cross societies, once they became official annexes to the armed forces, employ those who, because of their age, social condition, or gender, could not fight directly but who serve their country just as well by caring for wounded soldiers. The following year, the 1864 Geneva Convention is again modified to incorporate maritime war law according to the third and tenth Hague Conventions, developed from 1899.

-1907-1932, France: A central committee is created on 21 January 1907 and confirmed on 20 January 1913 to combine the Society for relief to the war wounded (Société de secours aux blessés militaires) with other organisations that train nurses during peacetime to intervene on battlefields. In the ICRC’s eyes, France shows blatant disregard for the principle of only one Red Cross society per country. Made up of royalist aristocrats, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires is indeed in competition with a secular, republican, upper class Association of French ladies(Association des Dames Françaises), and a Union (Union des Femmes de France) which is an offshoot of the latter and which aims at including women of lower social class. Founded in 1879 and 1881, respectively, these two groups are not recognised by the ICRC and are not invited to the International Conferences of the Red Cross. Feminist in nature, a large number of their members are Catholic and Nationalist fundamentalists who want to prove that the “weaker sex” can play a role in military affairs. Using the emblem of Jeanne d’Arc, Red Cross brochures also call on women to join the war effort, comparing their patriotism to a “sacred duty” and a Christian sacrifice. Thus uniformed nurses accompany the French army’s colonial expeditions, as in Morocco between April 1911 and October 1913, where two of them succumb to illness. Generally speaking, the Red Cross contributes to the Empire’s expansion. Institutes in Oran and Saigon are opened to train nurses in 1894 and 1932 respectively. Likewise, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires supports colonial troops during the conquests of Tunisia in 1881, Tonkin from 1882 to 1886, Dahomey in 1890, Madagascar in 1895, and Morocco and Algeria from 1904 to 1907. During the repression of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in 1900, for example, it provides the Navy with two mobile clinics that, at the end of the hostilities in 1901, are officially transfered to colonial authorities to establish a French hospital in Beijing. As decrees of 1878, 1884, and 1889 made the Red Cross the only army health services’ auxiliary, ties to the military are even tighter during World War One, during which the Société de secours aux blessés militaires suffers 31 wounded nurses, 118 deaths from illness and 13 killed on the front. In addition, the Union des Femmes de France looses 60 volunteers. The conflict shows how important the women’s auxiliary organisations are. As a matter of fact, the Croix-Rouge française (CRF) does not just care for troops. Along with its Belgian, American, and British counterparts, it organises childcare activities while mothers work in munitions factories on the home front. A book published for the 100th anniversary of the CRF describes the society as “the Soldier’s Friend”. The organisation then continues to participate in military operations during the occupation of the German Ruhr in 1923 and the Rif War in Morocco in 1925. Signalling its militarisation, its president from 1918 to 1932, Paul Marie César Gérald Pau (1848-1932), is a general who lost a hand during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and who replaces 1907 Nobel Peace Prize winner and jurist Louis Renault, who had greatly contributed to the elaboration of the 1906 Geneva Convention.

-1908-1939, Italy: The American Red Cross (ARC) intervenes to help victims of the Messina-Reggio earthquake on 28 December 1908, which caused more than 75,000 deaths and left half a million homeless people in Sicily and Calabria. Having already learned from the San Francisco earthquake on 18 April 1906, the Americans deplore the slowness and lack of coordination of Italian relief efforts. But their desire to professionalise responses to natural disasters lessen as the organisation re-focuses its activities on the military when the United States send their army to Mexico in 1912, then to France and Italy in 1917, during World War One. After an earthquake that devastates Tokyo on 1 September 1923, it is Senator Giovanni Ciraolo who takes up the issue. President of the Italian Red Cross since 1919, he had lost a part of his family during the Messina tragedy of 1908. In 1915, he proposed to set up an International Relief Union for the victims of disasters, including armed conflicts, political upheavals, and revolutions. But the timing was wrong, in the middle of the war, and the project faced opposition from the ICRC, the League of Red Cross Societies, the British Red Cross, and the ARC, which succumbed to the growing isolationist attitude of post-war Washington, and which favoured private rather than states initiatives. The institution that finally emerges is not part of the League of Nations. The League of Red Cross Societies, which establishes its own office for handling natural disasters in 1923, fears competition and stops providing a free secretariat for the International Relief Union. As for the ICRC, it worries that such a project would favour the supremacy of the national societies and require a revision of the Geneva Conventions. In order to counterbalance the influence of the League of Red Cross Societies, it makes sure the International Relief Union is accessible to other NGOs such as Save the Children and the Order of Malta. To maintain its exclusive position, the ICRC also torpedoes Senator Giovanni Ciraolo’s first project, which planned to help victims of armed conflict with the League of Red Cross Societies. Although the Geneva Committee officially supports the International Relief Union, it undermines it whenever possible and opposes for instance its intervention during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. States are reticent too: while Washington simply refuses to adhere to the League of Nations, Paris doubts the feasibility of victims’ compensations based on a mutual insurance system, and London, which suspects a manoeuvre by Italian fascists, pays no interest in natural disasters, especially earthquakes. As a result, Giovanni Ciraolo’s project is gutted of any substance. It is no longer about reconstruction but first and foremost about emergency relief. And it does not cover natural disasters such as famines and floods because they are recurrent. All that remains are “exceptional” events considered as instances of “force majeure”. In July 1927, the convention which founds the International Relief Union is eventually amended and removes all references to mutual aid between states. Operational from December 1932, the organisation remains underfinanced and ineffective until it disappears with the League of Nations in September 1939. Indeed, governments are slow to ratify its convention and reluctant to pay compulsory contributions. Furthermore, the organisation is not allowed to intervene without the approval of countries affected by an “exceptional” disaster. Thus, it is not called in to help during floods in China and Poland or during earthquakes in Greece and Italy. Even India feels it does not need international assistance for victims of the Bihar-Orissa earthquake on 15 January 1934. Generally speaking, governments do not wish an international union to coordinate relief efforts, preferring instead to manage their own humanitarian affairs. Historian John Hutchinson concludes that, under the guise of prevention, they are actually preparing for war by financing health departments for their soldiers. As for the ICRC and the League of Red Cross Societies, they will formally pull out of the International Relief Union in 1948, two years before its dissolution by the UN and the transfer of its research department (the only that ever worked) to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

-From 1909, Switzerland: Following mounting pressure from the ICRC, a 1909 federal law confirms the exclusivity of the Swiss national society recognised by the Geneva Committee. At the time, both Protestants and Catholics attempt to take control of the movement and set up their own Red Cross societies. Competition is fierce. Some Sisters of the Red Cross (Sœurs de la Croix-Rouge) are established in Zurich, while a pastor, Louis-Lucien Rochat (1849-1919), launches in 1877 a religious Blue Cross to advocat abstinence and combat alcoholism. In the 1880s and 1890s, the ICRC also complains about pharmacies and dubious organisations that use its emblem to attract clients or collect donations. The most interesting humanitarian initiative is that of a pastor from Zurich, Walter Kempin Spyri, who launches a Red Cross in 1882 to rival another, official organisation, the Association for relief to Swiss military personnel and their families (Association de secours aux militaires suisses et à leurs familles). Based in Berne and presided by Federal Councillor Karl Schenk (1823-1895) from 1866 until his death, the latter was only active after the retreat of General Charles Bourbaki’s troops at the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Afterwards, it existed only on paper because its cantonal committees disappeared one after the other. So it is Pastor Walter Kempin Spyri who re-launches the Red Cross movement in Switzerland. As president of the Zurich Red Cross from December 1881 until his resignation in December 1885, he attempts to develop activities during peacetime. His ideas eventually take hold. From 1893 onwards, the Croix-Rouge suisse (CRS) thus expands its activities to cover public health, particularly nurse training, an area previously reserved for Catholic nuns and Protestant deaconesses. Along the same lines, it is joined by the Swiss Society of Health Brigades (Société suisse des troupes sanitaires) and the Swiss Samaritan Alliance (Alliance suisse des Samaritains), two organisations created by Sergeant Major Ernst Möckli in 1881 and 1888 respectively. Officially recognized in June 1903 by a governmental decree amended in January 1942 and June 1951, the CRS is however militarized like other national societies in Europe. Just before World War One, it changes its status to become an auxiliary service to the army, under the authority of an officer in case of mobilisation. Moreover, it participates in military training exercises for nurses and logistics. Initially presided by Zurich mayors like Heinrich Haggenmacher (from 1902 to 1905) and Hans Konrad Pestalozzi (who dies during his term), then by a pastor, Edmund von Steiger (until 1909), the CRS is finally to be controlled by high-ranking officers. From 1910 and throughout World War One, it is led by colonels: first a state councillor, Isaak Iselin, who is replaced in 1919 by the organisation’s doctor in chief, Karl Bohny, followed in 1929 and 1930-1939 by two doctors from Lausanne and Zurich, Alfred Kohler and Anton von Schulthess. Paradoxically, the organisation is demilitarized during World War Two. Although the CRS is presided from 1939 to 1946 by Colonel Johannes von Muralt, its charter is revised by the government in 1942 to transfer leadership to civilians. A reason for this is that Switzerland pulled out of the League of Nations in 1938 to restore its neutrality and prevent the possibility of a German invasion. After the war, the CRS is eventually led by academic professors from the university:  Gustav Adolf Bohny from 1946, Ambrosius von Albertini from 1954, and Hans Haug from 1968 to 1982.

-From 1910, Mexico: The Mexican Red Cross is established by presidential decree in February 1910. At the time, the ICRC does not operate in the country despite various revolutionary movements spearheaded by figures such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. Focused on Europe throughout World War One, it does not intervene either when the US Army occupy Veracruz in April 1914 and sends a punitive expedition in March 1916. The Committee’s restrictive mandate means that it is only able to correspond with the Mexican Red Cross during the peasant and catholic uprisings between 1926 and 1929. Only 50 years later does the ICRC intervene directly in Mexico, after the first offensive by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN or Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) in Chiapas in January 1994. Working with the Mexican Red Cross and its president, Doctor Fernando Uribe Calderón, the ICRC visits prisoners held by government forces in Cerro Hueco Prison in Tuxtla Gutiérrez. Meanwhile, the EZLN, led by Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente (better known as Commandant Marcos), declares it is prepared to accept the principles of humanitarian law. It requests the ICRC to set up neutral zones near the Selva Lacandona, in San Miguel and Guadelupe Tepeyac, to exchange prisoners. In addition, the Committee escorts armed guerrillas in and out of these zones. In February 1994, it organises the release of the rebels’ only hostage: Absalón Castellanos Domínguez, a landowner and retired general who had also been the governor of Chiapas. Nevertheless, the ICRC refuses the EZLN’s request to supervise local elections, and limits its role to escorting civil servants in charge of the organisation of the vote in rebel zones. As the death toll of the conflict is low, the Committee to pull out of the region in 1995, after giving food aid to 20,000 inhabitants and 5,000 internal refugees who were unable to plant crops following the army’s occupation of their areas. On 26 May 1998, the ICRC then signs an agreement with the government to return to Chiapas and transport EZLN delegates to peace negotiations held in San Cristobál de las Casas in November. Indeed, the ICRC enjoys the continued support and trust of all factions, even if visits to high security prison units are suspended between 1997 and 2000.

-1911-1912, Libya: Italy, which invades Tripolitania in September 1911, attacks Ottoman troops with planes, one of the first examples of aeroplanes being used for military purposes. As a result, the Ottoman Red Crescent protests against the bombing of its hospitals in November 1911 and May 1912, although Rome denies any violation of humanitarian law. In February 1912 in the Turco-Arab zone, two doctors from the German Red Cross are then killed during fighting in Garian, south of Tripoli. Meanwhile, Italian troops, who now control the Libyan coastline, refuse the Ottoman Red Crescent access to the country by sea, despite support from the “British Red Crescent”, an organisation which is not recognised by the ICRC and which was set up by London’s Muslim community. In January 1912, one of the Ottoman Red Crescent’s medical missions, transported on the French ship Manouba, is intercepted and captured by the Italian Navy, thus creating a diplomatic incident with Paris. Generally speaking, however, the ICRC seems to be more favourably inclined towards the Italians. When the Ottoman Red Crescent requests assistance in repatriating Turks caught up in an uprising in Yemen, for instance, the ICRC refers the organisation to Rome.

-1912-1917, United States: Held in Washington in 1912, the Ninth International Conference of the Red Cross authorises the ICRC and national societies to extend their mandate to prisoners of war, in addition to the war-wounded. The event also consecrates the power of the American Red Cross (ARC), whose international operations expand rapidly under the patronage of the president of the USA. Usually, the organisation sends food aid and funds relief initiatives abroad under the supervision of American embassies or consulates, for instance in Sicily after the Messina earthquake of 28 December 1908. As explained by Foster Rhea Dulles, it becomes “so closely associated with the Government that it [tends] to become a semi-official instrument of foreign policy”. After the collapse of General Porfirio Díaz’ regime in Mexico in May 1911, it announces it will not remain neutral because civil wars are not covered in the Geneva Conventions. It therefore sends teams to support the US military occupation of Vera Cruz in April 1914, earning the hostility of Mexican inhabitants, who refuse its aid and force the ARC to give up food distribution programmes in October 1915. Despite this negative experience, the American Red Cross continues to work as a health division for the US Army during World War One in Europe. In 1914, it undergoes administrative reform to divide its activities between civilian and military sections, bringing together the three departments formerly charged with War Relief, National Relief and International Relief. Until 1917, when Washington puts an end to American neutrality and enters the war, the ARC assists both camps: the Germans and the Austrians on one side, as well as the French, the British, the Russians and the Serbians on the other. In Russia, for example, the US are the official protector of German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. For the ARC, the problem is that Moscow issues permits to access prisoners on a reciprocal basis, while Washington has little influence over Spain, which is charged with protecting Russian prisoners of war in Germany and Austria-Hungary. In addition, the Tsarist regime has little confidence in American democracy. In February 1916, it expels all ARC expatriates because Doctor William Warfield denounces the Russian treatment of German prisoners of war who are left without medical assistance during a typhoid epidemic in Stretensk, Western Siberia in December 1915. By way of comparison, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Alliance) and the Swedish and Danish Red Crosses are much more efficient. Led by dynamic and experienced diplomats, the Swedish Red Cross, in particular, has a much better understanding of the country. It even manages to deliver money orders from the government in Berlin to German prisoners of war. Unlike the ARC, its employees speak Russian and have connections with the Tsarist nobility, especially through women. Indeed, aristocratic marriages often transcend national borders: Maria Fedorovna, for example, is the mother of the Tsar and the patron of the Russian Red Cross, but also the aunt of the Swedish Red Cross’ president (Prince Carl) and the sister of the Danish Red Cross’ president (Prince Valdemar, King Christian X’s brother). The ARC, on the other hand, is primarily seen as an extension of the American government. When the United States join the war in 1917, the ARC ceases all operations in favour of the Germans, with the exception of the war-wounded and prisoners of war in Allied hands. Significantly, all references to neutrality are deleted from the headers of official ARC documents.

-1913, Yugoslavia: After the first Balkan War of October-December 1912, which opposes the Ottoman Empire on one side, and Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece on the other, the second Balkan War is waged between June and August 1913, when Bulgaria attacks Serbia, Greece and Romania. In response, the ICRC launches in Belgrade an agency to identify and locate the wounded, sick soldiers and prisoners of war. Under the leadership of Doctor Carle de Marval (1872-1939), a delegate sent by the Geneva Committee, and Christian Vögeli (1871-1922), the Swiss consul in Belgrade, it gathers information on some 88,000 of a total of 250,000 sick or wounded captured soldiers, mostly Turkish. Before being closed in November 1913, however, the agency is a source of suspicion for some of the parties to the conflict. Indeed, it is located in a belligerent country, instead of operating from a neutral zone like its predecessor in Bâle, Switzerland, during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. Consequently, Bulgaria does not hand over the details of Turkish prisoners until the end of the fighting. As for the Russian, German, British, French, Swiss, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Belgian and Norwegian Red Crosses, they manage their own medical operations near the frontlines.

-1914-1918, Switzerland: World War One confirms the importance of the ICRC as the organisation extends its activities to the military captured during combat, instead of wounded soldiers only. The institution benefits from the leadership of Edouard Naville and Gustave Ador, president of the ICRC as well as Gustave Moynier’s nephew and successor. In 1914, they set up a Central Agency for Prisoners of War, today known as the Central Tracing Agency (CTA). Its main objectives are to locate prisoners, identify them, deliver mail and reunite families by issuing travel permits to soldiers without papers. The Geneva Committee, which obtains a legal status under Swiss law on 15 November 1915, also launches relief programmes. It mostly focuses on the Franco-German border, rather than the Austro-Italian border, leaving the Danish Red Cross to work in Eastern Europe. While the ICRC is able to visit prisoners of war held behind frontlines, it does not have access to concentration camps in army zones, where abuses of detainees are most frequent. Nor does the Committee have access to civilians who have been deported, conscripted or taken hostage in regions under German occupation. At best, it can visit a hundred “show” camps where Berlin treats prisoners of war decently to lull the ICRC into a false sense of security. Consequently, the Committee is unable to investigate detention conditions for most imprisoned soldiers. Officially, prisoners of war are put in camps but, unofficially, two thirds are sent to work in Arbeits-Kommando: factories, mines, or farms. The Romanians are particularly badly treated. The ICRC denounces these abuses, as well as the bombing of a British hospital ship transporting troops and weapons, although this goes against the Geneva and Hague conventions. Berlin subsequently accuses the organization of taking London’s side. In response, the Committee’s June 1917 International Bulletin underlines its responsibility to denounce violations of humanitarian conventions and avoid the “weakness” associated with adopting a silent “pseudo-neutrality”. In an internal document mentioned by Annette Becker, the organization goes so far as to forget its neutrality and approve the resistance of the inhabitants of occupied territories before they were deported to Germany. Despite censoring letters sent to prisoners of war in enemy hands, the ICRC’s communication policy is more open during this period than at any other time during its history. It chooses to publish and sell its inspection reports of camps in order to reassure families and prevent reprisals against prisoners. On 12 July 1916, it issues a press release condemning warring parties that retaliate against wounded prisoners of war, an action that violates the 1864 Convention. On 8 February and 6 December 1918, further communiqués criticise the use of lethal gases. Indeed, there are many violations of the international humanitarian law during the conflict. On both sides, hospital ships clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem are bombed. The culprit is often Germany, which wages a maritime war, fires on crews without warning, sinks civilian boats, destroys commercial cargos, attacks hospital ships and uses chemical weapons with no regard for local populations. As for the German Red Cross, it sometimes refuses to feed or provide medical care to British prisoners of war. Wounded enemy soldiers are operated on without anaesthetic; doctors from the British Red Cross are imprisoned. Admittedly, the Russian Red Cross is no better in its treatment of German prisoners of war who are forced to build a railway between Murmansk and the Arctic Ocean: over 25,000 workers die during construction. Nor are civilians spared by the Tsarist monarchy. Trapped in Russia at the beginning of the war, over 330,000 German and Austrian citizens are forced to carry out hard labour in mines, swamps and weapons factories. The conflict is as deadly for the humanitarian personnel. Out of 68,000 nurses and first aid staff employed by Red Cross national societies during the war, 108 die on the front and 165 succomb to illnesses caught from soldiers. Yet the ICRC, recipient of the 1917 Nobel Peace Prize, succeeds in organising exchanges of wounded prisoners through Switzerland from October 1915 onwards. Following direct and exclusive negotiations between Paris and Berlin, another agreement is signed in Berne on 26 April 1918 to exchange prisoners on the basis of rank and number. France is initially reluctant because it holds less prisoners than Germany. In any case, the agreement is too late to be effective. It is more indicative of the belligerents’ exhaustion at that point in the conflict, when each side thinks that the repatriation of prisoners and reunification of families will revive public support for the war. Berlin, for instance, wishes to get rif of prisoners that are no longer capable of working and cost too much to feed, especially given the blockade of the German economy. After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the ICRC then attempts to assist in repatriating over 800,000 allied prisoners of war, most of them French or Belgian, with a few Italians and Americans. However, the fate of German prisoners of war remain unclear until the Treaty of Versailles is signed by the Weimar Republic on 28 June 1919.

-From 1915, Belgium: Led by Antoine Depage (1862-1925) between 1914 and 1924, the CRB (Croix-Rouge belge) tries to remain active under German occupation, but is soon shut down for supposedly failing to fight prostitution. The real reason for its closure has more to do with the escape route set up by one of its nurses, Edith Cavell. A British, she helped 170 Allied soldiers to hide in hospitals until they were able to cross frontlines. In April 1915, the ICRC protests against the CRB’s closure, and manages to have the organisation reinstated. Nevertheless, it cannot prevent Edith Cavell’s execution, which takes place in October, a day after her death penalty is sentenced. Meanwhile, another faction of the CRB continues to work in Ypres, the only area to remain under the control of the exiled Belgian government, which is based in Sainte Adresse in the suburbs of Le Havre in France. Doctor Antoine Depage thus succeeds in setting up a 2000-bed hospital in a requisitioned hotel in the city of De Panne. From April 1917 onwards, however, it is mainly the ARC (American Red Cross) that takes care of the 90,000 civilians still present in this limited geographical space. It also assists Belgian refugees in France, Holland, Switzerland and Great Britain. Between September 1917 and October 1918, the Belgian chapter of the ARC is led by Colonel Ernest Bicknell and, according to John van Schaick, it devotes 27% of its US$4.3 million budget to military affairs between June 1917 and the end of its operations in Belgium in April 1919. As for the CRB, it is reunited after the war under the leadership of its secretary general, René Sand (1877-1953), a specialist of social health. After Antoine Depage, who is nominated a senator for the liberal party in 1920, its new president from 1925 to 1945 is Pierre Nolf (1873-1953), a professor of Medicine at Liège University, Minister of Science and founder of the National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS or Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique). With support from the authorities, the CRB turns its focus to public health, especially nurse training, in line with a decree passed on 3 September 1921. The organisation also develops a countrywide network: in 1959, it has 480 local chapters and 280,000 members, compared to 28 chapters and 5,000 members in 1920. Some of its most important interventions include saving the victims of floods in Grembergen in 1930, the East Flanders in 1936, Hainaut in 1947, and Liège and Namur in 1961. It also recues the survivors of mining disasters in Bouverie in 1937 and Marcinelle in 1956.

-1916-1948, Sweden: While Berne adopts a passive neutrality that limits the Swiss Red Cross’ activities abroad, Stockholm’s active neutrality enables the SRK (Svenska Röda Korset) to carry out international operations during both World Wars. Following an initial meeting in 1915, Sweden organises a Germano-Russian conference which aims at reducing reprisals against prisoners of war held by warring parties. The meeting gets off to a rocky start because the German Red Cross initially refuses to apologise for sinking a Russian hospital ship, the Portugal, on 30 March 1916 in the Black Sea. According to Berlin, the target was legitimate, for its emblem was not clearly visible. Nevertheless, the conference is finally held as planned, in April 1916, and some progress are made. For instance, the SRK manages to convince the Tsar to stop forcing German detainees to work on the Mourmansk-Arctic Ocean train line, an extremely dangerous construction site, although it is unable to obtain similar concessions for Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. In addition, the Russian and German national societies remain in contact throughout World War One, unlike during World War Two. The Russian Red Cross is given permission to visit prisoners of war in Germany and Austria-Hungary. Likewise, the German and Austro-Hungarian Red Crosses are allowed to care for their compatriot prisoners of war. One of their nurses, Erika von Passow, will thus disappear during the Bolshevik Revolution, while trying to flee Russia for Germany via Turkestan and Persia. Others will also experience such hardship. After finishing her official mission for the German Red Cross, for instance, Countess Nora Kinsky, from Bohemia, will remain in Russia to care for her younger brother and she will have to escape the civil war in mufti. As for Elsa Brändström, the daughter of the Swedish ambassador to Petrograd, she will catch typhus and be held for several months by the Czechoslovak Legion’s White Army on suspicion of spying. In this regard, World War One is quite formative for the Swedish Red Cross. Set up in 1865 and presided by Prince Carl (1861-1951) between 1906 and 1945, the SRK becomes one of the most active national societies in providing international relief. With members increasing from 4,500 to 500,000 between the two World Wars, it distributes food aid in Austria, Hungary, Poland and Russia after 1918. From 1939 onwards, it assists foreign nationals trapped in Sweden after Norway, Denmark and the Baltic Countries are invaded, and it sends relief to civilians in German or Soviet occupied regions in Finland, France, Norway, Poland, Belgium and Greece. Named vice-president of the SRK in September 1943 and president in November 1945, Count Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948) manages to travel to Germany in April 1945 to meet the head of the SS (Schutzstaffel), Heinrich Himmler, who frees some Scandinavian nationals and French women from Nazi concentration camps in order to open talks to negotiate the Third Reich’s surrender to Allied Forces. After the fall of Berlin in May 1945, the SRK then assists in repatriating American, British and German prisoners of war held in Sweden, some of whom had been exchanged during the conflict. It also delivers food aid for 121,000 children in Germany between January 1946 and June 1948, despite the reluctance of the Allies and the general public to help an “enemy country”. Launched in the British zone of occupation and quickly spread to all of Berlin, the programme includes the Soviet zone. While continuing operations in Austria and Greece, however, the SRK is soon forced to stop its activities in Hungary, Poland and Romania, when the communists take power.

-1917-1918, United States: Led by Henry Davison and set up in May to raise funds from business circles, a “War Council” takes over running the ARC (American Red Cross) when the United States declare war against Germany in April 1917. As the first US soldiers leave for Europe, it collects a record $100 million dollars. And the number of active members goes up from 3,000 in 1905 to 220,000 in 1915, 286,000 in 1916, 18.6 million in 1917 and 28 million in 1918: a figure that does not take into account the 50 million American donors who give money to the ARC during two collection drives that raise $115 million in 1917 and $181 million in 1918. As the organisation moves into new headquarters built in Washington on land donated by the government in 1915, its operating budget grows from $488,590 in 1916 to $2 million in 1918. In August 1917, it has 2,279 regional chapters, compared to only 267 six months beforehand. The ARC’s headquarters therefore have to manage 8 million women volunteers and 9,000 employees, compared to 167 in early 1917 and less than 100 in 1914. The organisation receives considerable government support, and its ties to the White House are visible in several ways. Doctor Stockton Axson, its national secretary from 1917 to 1919, is brother-in-law to Woodrow Wilson, elected president in 1913 and the first incumbent to directly sponsor the ARC. As explained by Henry Davison in his book, the objective is not only to help civilians, but first and foremost the US Army. At the frontline, the ARC cares for the wounded and even comes to supplant military health services, especially at Château Thierry in France, a country where it has up to 6,000 employees in January 1919. Placed under US command and removed from French control since April 1917, volunteers also supply and entertain soldiers. Racial segregation is considered normal, with specific departments for the Blacks. But the ARC is accused by the American press of serving the tobacco industry’s interests, and criticised for selling meals and cigarettes to the soldiers. Moreover, it takes longer for the organisation to move into neighbouring Italy, despite the fact that this country had fought alongside the Allies since May 1915. Indeed, US troops are few on the Italian peninsula, compared to France. Consequently, the ARC attributes fewer resources to military activities in the country: only 10% of its budget from November 1917 until its withdrawal in June 1919. However, it assists the families of Italian soldiers, who receive around 25% of the organisation’s civilian aid. As in France, the ARC entertains and cares for wounded soldiers. Not without risks: one of its employees, Edward McKay, is killed by an Austrian mortar attack on 16 June 1918, while another volunteer, famous author Ernest Hemingway, will describe in Farewell to Arms the Caporetto defeat that he witnessed in October 1917. For civilians who were forced to leave their homes after conflict in the region of Venetia, the ARC sets up two hospitals, one in Rimini on the Atlantic Coast, the other at Canicattini Bagni in Sicily. Supervised by American consuls in Italy and led by US officers, the organisation directly serves the interests of Washington. According to Charles Bakewell, for instance, it relays Allied propaganda to counter the “defeatists” who accuse the United States of gaining from the war, and attempting to make it last longer. On the eastern front too, the ARC plays a diplomatic and financial role in Russia, where it opens an office in Petrograd in August 1917, then in Moscow after the Bolshevik Revolution in March 1918. As explained by Antony Sutton, it looks for business opportunities under the cover of humanitarian operations. Completely funded by William Boyce Thompson, the director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, its Petrograd mission is not accountable to the ARC’s head office in Washington. It is almost entirely made up of military personnel who compare themselves to a “Haitian Army” because they include officers, but no soldiers. Their political activities are immediately obvious to the seven American doctors who are sent to Petrograd and who quickly resign. A Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, the head doctor, Frank Billings, is consequently replaced by “diplomats”: first Raymond Robins, then Allen Wardwell. Their aim is to fund the partisans of Alexander Fedorovitch Kerenski and to convince Washington to do business with the Bolsheviks by recognising their revolutionary government so that it could be given loans. In Moscow in November 1917, for instance, Raymond Robins attempts to convince Vladimir Illitch Oulianov (“Lenin”) and Leon Trotsky to continue war against Germany in exchange for a promise that US aid would resume. The ARC is thus used as a foreign policy instrument. As part of the US Army and subject to military control, it spreads the government’s political propaganda. Criticisms against the organisation are considered attacks on national security and threatened with prison sentences. Hence Louis Nagler, an assistant to the Wisconsin secretary of state, is condemned in July 1918 to 30 months prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, for discouraging his fellow citizens to donate money to the ARC or the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Alliance). Opposed to the US Army’s intervention in Europe, he was of German descent and openly supported the pacifist senator Robert La Follette. He falls foul of the anti-spying law: even though the ARC and YMCA are not officially covered by “secret” legislation, the judge argues that their volunteers are an integral part of US troops, confirming the two organisations’ militarisation. After 1918, the ARC will continue to work with the Army anyway, caring for veterans and training nurses.

-1918-1950, Russia: After the Bolshevik Revolution and the fall of the monarchy in October 1917, Edouard Odier, vice president of the ICRC and the Swiss ambassador to Petrograd, sends delegate Edouard Frick to Russia in May 1918. For the first time in its history, the organisation is allowed for a while to visit political prisoners as well as prisoners of war. Eugene Nussbaum, who replaces Edouard Frick in October 1918, is not so lucky. Arrested on 2 June 1919, he is forced to leave the country during the plundering of Petrograd. Meanwhile, Gustave Ador, ICRC president and Swiss head of state, expels the Bolshevik mission to Berne, which had been occupying the Tsar’s former embassy. Relations with Moscow further deteriorate when the ICRC repatriates Russian prisoners of war to Odessa and Southern regions held by the Allies and the White Army, instead of the North, which is controlled by the “Reds” and where transport lines are disrupted. As a matter of fact, openly anti-communist members of the Geneva Committee are concerned about reinforcing Bolshevik ranks at a time when over one million soldiers are returning to their home country. But on 19 April 1920, Berlin and Moscow sign an agreement to free Russian prisoners of war in Germany and organise their repatriation through transit camps in the Baltic countries. Facilitated by the League of Nations High Commissioner for Russian refugees, Fridjtof Nansen, and the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish Red Crosses, the first Russo-German exchange of prisoners takes place in Narva on 12 May 1920. As for the ICRC, it manages to convince the White Army to free Hungarian and Austrian prisoners of war in December 1919. However, relations with the anti-communist forces are not always good. In July 1918 in Khabarovsk, a Swedish ICRC delegate and his Norwegian secretary are captured and hung by Cossacks. On the other side, the new Soviet Red Cross president Zenoby Petrovich Soloviev, who takes over from Yakov Mikhaylovich Sverdlov in July 1919, prevents Eugene Nussbaum’s successor in Moscow since October 1921, Voldemar Wehrlin, from visiting gulags, under the pretext that only ordinary prisoners are held there. The ICRC can still assist some foreign detainees, but it has to stop working with the Mensheviks and Socio-democrats of the “Political Red Cross”, an organisation set up by Ekaterina Pavlovna Peshkova, Maxim Gorky’s first wife, to help Polish prisoners. Following an agreement signed by Fridjtof Nansen and the Communist authorities on 27 August 1921, the Geneva Committee then focuses on providing relief to famine victims in Russia and Ukraine, even if this reinforces the Bolshevik war economy at a critical point in the conflict against the Whites. While food aid is stolen or given to members of the Party, the ICRC finds it difficult to supply provisions fairly. To distribute donations by Jewish charity organisations, for example, risks provoking anti-Semitic feelings. Consequently, an ICRC delegate to Ukraine, Georges Dessonaz, chooses to give them to Catholic children. The Geneva Committee is not alone anyway. Herbert Hoover, the leader of the ARA (American Relief Administration) and a future American president, distributes surpluses of the US Army, still in stock since World War One. Moreover, some national societies intervene on an ad hoc basis, like the CFR (Croix-Rouge française) in July 1922. Others are present on a larger scale. After being forced out of Moscow by the Bolsheviks in October 1918, the ARC (American Red Cross), for instance, helped to evacuate Czech soldiers via the Transiberian Railway. It then supplied the Army of Admiral Alexander Koltchak until the “Whites” were defeated by the “Reds” in Omsk in November 1919, and the American troops had to evacuate from the port of Vladivostok in April 1920. Later on, it is involved in relief operations for famine victims. In Ukraine in September 1922 and April 1923, the ICRC’s delegate seizes this opportunity to visit forced labour camps in Dopr and Kharkov, althought they have very few political prisoners. Humanitarian activities are once again restricted when the famine ends. As the Committee withdraws to Moscow and never actually denounces concentration camps, the Soviet Red Cross ceases in April 1923 to forward its food packages to gulag prisoners. The Committee’s role becomes purely ceremonial: the organisation carries out administrative duties and assists Swiss nationals in Russia. Because of the Communist regime’s xenophobia and paranoia, it cannot even communicate with the Soviet Red Cross, which is set up in 1924 as the Alliance of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. The ICRC eventually closes its Moscow mission on 23 June 1938. Meanwhile, the Soviet Red Cross, also suffers from the purges of Josef Stalin. Its leader, Abel Sofronovitch Enoukidzé, a professional revolutionary and a member of the communist party’s central committee, is executed on 16 December 1937 and replaced by subordinates, first Pauline Sazonova, then Pierre Glebov, who put a stop to the organisation’s international relations despite joining the League of Red Cross Societies in 1934, when Moscow still sought to build ties with Western democracies and create people’s fronts against the Nazis. Just before World War Two, the Soviet Red Cross is merely a structure built to relay the Party and the government according to an official brochure quoted by Jiri Toman. It has the same characteristics as Communist syndicates, youth unions (komsomol), cooperatives (kolkhoz) and professional associations, and is expected to work with these groups. Above all, it is considered a “mass organisation”, to use the terminology of the statutes adopted at its fifth Congress on 16 May 1963: it has over 4 million members at its first Congress in Moscow in October 1932, and 7.9 million members in July 1941, when the population is mobilised against the German attack. Its main aim is to recruit volunteers and spread government propaganda, with 86 ambulance aircrafts put at its disposal in 1935 to cover rural areas. All other activities are handed over to the authorities, including medical, sanitation and financial services, which are placed under the control of the Ministry of Health on 3 December 1938. According to statutes drafted on 22 February 1941, shortly before the German invasion, the organisation’s role is clearly to mobilise and organise civil defence in a military context. Much of its personnel is swallowed up by military operations: the Army annexes 30% of its nurses in 1943 and 40% in 1942. Between September 1941 and March 1945, Soviet soldiers also receive supplies sent by the American and British Red Crosses through the ports of Murmansk and Vladivostok, as relief cannot come overland because of the German occupation of Europe. After the collapse of the Third Reich, the Army and the Communist Party continue to supervise humanitarian issues. The Red Cross is unable to prevent massive violations of the Geneva Conventions. Out of the 1.5 million Soviet prisoners of war repatriated between May 1945 and February 1946, over one third are accused of “betraying the Party” and placed in the Army’s disciplinary battalions, assigned to reconstruction sites or deported to gulags. In line with agreements signed in Yalta in February 1945 and Moscow the following June, Great Britain, the United States and France undertake to repatriate to the USSR all those with Soviet nationality before September 1939, regardless of the wishes or fears of the returnees. The ICRC is thus powerless to stop the Allies sending a total of 4.2 million Soviet nationals back to their country by force. Already criticised for its weak position on Adolf Hitler’s atrocities, it refrains from denouncing Josef Stalin’s violations of humanitarian law and tries no to be associated with anticommunist propaganda, which links the Nazi extermination program and the Soviet concentration camps. In Paris in November 1949, the ICRC refuses to sign David Rousset’s call for an international investigation into gulags, and its delegation avoids to raise the matter during an official visit to Moscow in November 1950.

-1919-1922, France: The ARC (American Red Cross) plays an important role in helping to reconstruct the old continent, thanks to support from President Woodrow Wilson, US Army surpluses and a nest egg amounting to around $400 million in 1919. After an outbreak of Spanish influenza that causes more fatalities than World War One, the organisation focuses on fighting tuberculosis and widening the Red Cross mandate to include public health. But its desire for reform in peacetime is incompatible with the ICRC’s conservatism and fear of competition. At a conference in Cannes in April 1919, the American, British, French, Italian and Japanese Red Crosses decide to set up an organisation based on the League of Nations model and inaugurated in Paris on 5 May the following year. Led by Henry Davison, this League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS) is managed by a 15-member Board of Governors, a third of whom are nominated by the five founding societies. Seen as an Allied initiative, it does not invite defeated countries to join the project and it is frowned upon by the ICRC for going against the movement’s principles of universality and neutrality. By creating such a League, members are implicitly criticising the unilateral and non-democratic makeup of the Geneva Committee, where national societies have no representatives. The ICRC therefore tries to thwart the American initiative by launching a rival project with Rome, Athens and Sofia: the Union of Red Cross Societies. However, it soon has to accept the LRCS, whose members jump from 5 in 1919 to 35 in 1921 and 50 in 1924. Indeed, Red Crosses in newly independent countries and British dominions are eager to join the organisation to develop their international connections, as in Finland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa. Moreover, the LRCS wins over Red Crosses in defeated countries: Austria, Bulgaria and Hungary in 1921, Germany in 1922 and Turkey in 1930. Nevertheless, the League does have some teething problems since the Republicans won the US elections and adopted an isolationist policy in 1921. First, the LRCS has no official ties to the League of Nations, which sets up its own world health organisation in 1921. Moreover, it faces budgetary problems as it does not receive the financial resources it hoped for from the Rockefeller Foundation and the ARA (American Relief Administration), which want to keep their humanitarian preserve, or the British Foreign Office, which, according to Bridget Towers, finds it “absurd” to globalise funding for public health. After Henry Davison’s death, the League also faces opposition from ARC isolationists who are unhappy about how little European members contribute to the organisation. The fact is that these national societies raise less funds during peacetime because the general public is usually more concerned by the war wounded. In addition, the British Red Cross wants to control its own international operations; the CRF (Croix-Rouge française) is fully occupied with reconstructing its country; and the Italian Red Cross is busy distributing relief to earthquake victims in the Mugello and Sienna regions in June and September 1919 respectively. Consequently, in August 1922, the LRCS adopts more modest ambitions. Away from the League of Nations and the ICRC, it moves to Paris, where real estate is cheaper than in Geneva. After Henry Davison dies of illness, its new president in 1922 is another American, Judge John Barton Payne, who is also a member of the ARC central committee and who is followed by compatriots Cary Grayson in 1935 and Norman Davis in 1938. The LRCS focuses on training health personnel. In 1934, it takes part in setting up the Florence Nightingale Foundation in London alongside the International Council of Nurses, which was founded in 1899. But the LRCS never manages to obtain the ICRC’s official status: in 1935, for instance, it is the Geneva Committee that the League of Nations requests to organise a secretariat for the International Relief Union, which was established to help the victims of natural disasters. Nor does the League succeeds in becoming the national societies’ only intermediary, especially after the 1929 Wall Street Crash, when the ARC is no longer able to contribute so generously to the organisation’s budget. As a result, the LRCS has to cut ten staff, reduce administrative costs and submit to supervision by a financial committee after Secretary General Tracey Kittredge resigns in 1930. Under the leadership of Ernest Bicknell and Ernest Swift (brought in to replace Gordon Berry who committed suicide before taking up his post), the organisation is also forced to move its headquarters from Avenue Velasquez in Paris’ 8th arrondissement to buildings provided by the French government in Rue Newton in the 6th arrondissement in December 1934.

-1920-1923, Turkey:  The American and French Red Crosses provide relief to Turkish citizens thrown out of Thrace by Greek troops, as well as Russian refugees fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution. In Constantinople in November 1920, for instance, the Americans organise facilities to accommodate some of the 110,000 refugees and soldiers under General Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel, pushed out of Crimea by the Soviets. In January 1922, the ICRC then begins to visit Turkish and Greek prisoners of war on both sides. In line with an agreement between Athens and Istanbul signed on 30 January 1923, the Committee is able to supervise the exchange and repatriation of many military and civilian detainees. Presided from 1921 by General Alexander Soutzo, the Greek Red Cross only takes care of its own nationals and works like a government agency, as it is heavily subsidised by Athens and has very few members.

-March-April 1921, Switzerland: France and Belgium refuse to attend the Tenth International Conference of the Red Cross unless Germany offers a public apology for its violations of the 1864 Geneva Convention during World War One. Still waiting for official recognition, Soviet Russia decides not to come to Geneva either, so as to boycott representatives from the former Tsarist Red Cross, who are first admitted in an advisory capacity, and eventually awarded voting rights. Meanwhile, the ICRC also has to handle competition from the League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS), which is considered to be an Anglo-Saxon conspiracy. It finally creates a joint commission presided by Gustave Ador. According to John Hutchinson, such an arrangement allows the Geneva Committee to give the impression that it is ready to cooperate and that the movement is coming together. Meanwhile, the objective is to delay discussions regarding the sharing of roles between the two institutions. Despite numerous disagreements, the Tenth International Conference of the Red Cross plans to extend the ICRC’s mandate to domestic conflicts. But Resolution 14 gives national societies the responsibility of providing relief to the war wounded and prisoners of war. This means the Committee cannot circumvent the Red Crosses that are controlled by totalitarian states, as in Germany, the USSR, and Italy.

-From 1922, Ireland: When conflict breaks out in June 1922, the ICRC hesitates to intervene because there is no local Red Cross in place. While London authorises the creation of an independent state in Southern Ireland (Eire) but keeps six counties in the Northeast (Ulster), the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) refuses to send volunteers to Dublin, where a civil war is raging. Up to 12,000 are said to have been taken prisoners by the Irish Free State, mainly Republicans loyal to Eamon de Valera and opposed to breaking up the island. After some persuasion, the ICRC nevertheless obtains permission from local authorities to visit one prison in April 1923. In a 7 May press release, it comes to the rather hasty conclusion that detention conditions are satisfactory. Paradoxically, the government’s version of the ICRC report is more complete and acute, stating that the Committee’s delegate, Rodolphe Haccius, was not able to question detainees nor hear their complaints. It turns out that Geneva had shortened his summary: an “editing” which raises protests from exiled Irish Republicans. The question of publishing ICRC reports comes up again in the Northeast, where the Catholic minority finally rebels against the dominating Protestants, loyal supporters of the British Crown. After the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 is suspended and a state of exception is declared on 10 August 1971, London authorises the Geneva Committee to visit political detainees in Ulster, especially in Armagh County, Crumlin Road in Belfast, and Long Kesh near Lisburn. Contrary to normal governmental practice, Great Britain chooses to publish the ICRC delegates’ full reports. Geneva agrees, even though London refuses to give insurgents prisoner of war status. The problem is that detainees go on hunger strikes to be recognized as political prisoners. In fact, Great Britain considers that deploying its troops to Ulster is part of a domestic police operation and not an armed conflict. Its soldiers accused of abuse are therefore judged in civil courts and not in military tribunals. As a result, the ICRC has to end its prison visits in 1975 and has a very difficult time gaining access to the terrorists of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It is not until 1981 that the organisation is once again authorised to inspect prisons in Belfast, Armagh and Magilligan, and in later years, Maghaberry and Maze. Its visits become more regular, and take place in April 1983, August 1986, August 1988, May 1989, June 1990, February 1992, April 1994 and November 1995.

-1923-1985, Chile: Passed in April 1923, a law gives the Chilean Red Cross official status, well after its counterparts in Peru (1879), Argentina and Bolivia (1880), El Salvador (1885), Venezuela (1895), Uruguay (1897) Brazil (1908), Mexico (1910), Columbia (1915) and Paraguay (1919). Launched in Punta Arenas by an Italian immigrant, Vittorio Cuccuini Nannelli, in December 1903, the organisation was initially a self-defence group, the Association of lifesavers and guardians of property (Cuerpo de Salvavidas y Guardias de Propiedad). Renamed as Cuerpo de Asistencia Social, it was approached by the ICRC in 1909, and it opened branches in Tocopilla and Valparaíso in 1910 before being recognised by the government in 1912. Divided into several regional chapters, however, it was unable to set up a national structure and faced competition from a women’s Red Cross set up in Santiago by María Luisa Torres in October 1914. On 14 June 1920, the Minister of War finally passed a decree to unite the Cruz Roja Chilena under a central committee established in the capital city and presided by Vice-Admiral Jorge Montt. After its legalisation in April 1923, the organisation has many occasions to intervene during the various conflicts and coup d’états that tear the country apart. The Chilean Red Cross, for instance, is called on to provide relief to victims of the repression by General Augusto Pinochet after the military putsch that ousted Socialist President Salvador Allende in September 1973. The ICRC is active too. Unlike many other dictators, General Augusto Pinochet decides to treat political detainees as prisoners of war. From December 1973, the ICRC is therefore given permission to assist opponents held behind bars. Although the organisation is subject to the whims of the government, which suspends prisons visits for a time in June 1974, it also attempts to find the desaparecidos abducted by the death squads, and it gives out travel passes to nationals of other Latin American countries who, caught up in the events, are suspected of subversive activities and want to leave Chile. After an amnesty is declared in April 1978, which covers both opponents and members of the military junta, the ICRC closes its delegation in Santiago in October and only leaves open a branch of the Central Tracing Agency to help find persons who have disappeared during the conflict. However, in December 1981, it resumes its visits to extend its assistance to prisoners arrested for breaking laws on state security and arms control. When a state of siege is declared from November 1984 to June 1985, it reopens an office in Santiago, not only to take care of political detainees, but also to push the authorities to sign the additional protocols of June 1977.

-From 1924, Albania:  As they regularly collaborate with the Fridjtof Nansen International Office for Refugees, the ICRC and the LRCS are given responsibility by the League of Nations for distributing relief in one of the poorest countries in Europe. Independent since 1912, Albania became a republic in 1916 but its social assistance programmes cannot depend solely upon its own national Red Cross society. Created on 4 October 1921 and recognised by Geneva in 1923, the latter is to disappear anyway, when the country is invaded by Fascists troops and annexed to Italy on 7 April 1939. After World War Two, Albania is taken over by Stalinist communists and completely cut off from the rest of the world under Enver Hoxha’s leadership. As a result, the Albanian Red Cross is no longer able to communicate with Geneva and is prevented from carrying out activities between 1967 and 1989. The ICRC can eventually return to Tirana when the regime introduces a multi-party political system that leads to violence. Some of its delegates, for instance, are attacked at Schkodër in April 1991 during riots to contest the results of the first legislative elections in 45 years. In September 1998, the Geneva Committee comes back to assist refugees fleeing the Serbian repression in Kosovo. It is supported by the Albanian Red Cross, which has been providing relief to 460,000 Kosovans since June 1998 in the border districts of Tropoja, Kukës, Has, Shkodër, and Korçë.

-17 June 1925, Switzerland:  In Geneva, the ICRC submits a protocol banning the use of chemical and bacterial weapons. It is the first time that the institution broaches the question of regulating arms whose collateral damages render the Geneva Conventions inapplicable. By adopting an apolitical stance against war in general, as opposed to a particular war, the ICRC confirms the advances made by the pacifist movement in favour of disarmament. Likewise, the Red Crosses enter a phase of demilitarisation, in line with the 1928 Kellog-Briand Pact that condemns war. To spare civilian populations, the German Red Cross even asks for a complete ban on military aviation and bombing.

-1926, Poland: After Józef Pilsudski’s coup d’état in May 1926, the ICRC organises prisoner exchanges in August with Lithuania, where Polish troops tried to annex Wilno (Vilnius). The Committee’s representative obtains permission to interview detainees without witnesses, a rule that will later hold the weight of doctrine for Geneva. In July 1924, the ICRC had also been invited by the Polish authorities to visit penitentiary centres. But the organisation had asked its delegate to inspect only 19 out of a total of 56 prisons, covering only half of the political detainees. Indeed, the ICRC feared controversy after Edouard Heriot, Léon Blum, Romain Rolland, and Paul Painlevé denounced “the white terror in Poland” in an article published on 2 May 1924 by L’Ere Nouvelle, a Parisian Journal. In fact, the local context is highly politicised because the regime in power in Warsaw acts as a barrier against Russian Communist forces. During a typhoid epidemic in 1920, note for instance Daphne Reid and Patrick Gilbo, the leader of the League of the Red Cross Societies’ Polish mission, American Colonel Hugh Cumming, openly declared he was going to set up a health unit to fight both the “Reds” and the disease. Humanitarians were to contribute to this by helping the country strengthen its independence. Officially established on 27 April 1919, the national Red Cross society thus played an important role in reinforcing the new state’s sovereignty, once shared between Russia and Germany. The organisation was lauched by Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski while in exile in 1914, first to Switzerland, then to the United States. Initially known as the “Central Committee of Relief for the Victims of War in Poland”, its presidents were all linked to the independence project, with Ignacy Paderewski’s wife in 1919, Helena Paderewska, then General Jósef Haller in 1920, who was to follow the government of Wladislaw Sikorski in exile to London during World War Two.

-From 1927, China:  The ICRC barely intervenes in the fighting that breaks out in August 1927 between General Chiang Kai-Shek’s nationalists and Mao Zedong’s communists. Sent to China during the flooding of the Yellow River in Henan Province in August 1925, the organisation’s delegate, Henri Cuenod, is more involved in accommodating 86,000 European refugees who fled Soviet Russia and were either evacuated to Latin America or settled in local “colonies” that will move onto Hong Kong or Macao after World War Two. In September 1931, the Geneva Committee faces another challenge: the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in northern China. As Tokyo continues its military campaign towards the south, the Chinese Red Cross is overwhelmed and seven of its hospitals are destroyed by occupation forces during fighting in July 1937. The ICRC is not allowed to intervene on the Japanese side either because Tokyo refuses any relief and does not respect humanitarian law. Its troops do not distinguish civilians from combatants, massacre the Nanjing population in 1937, drop fire bombs on Canton in 1938, and make virtually no attempt to spare relief workers. On 23 August 1937, for example, Japanese soldiers execute 43 Chinese volunteers wearing Red Cross armbands in Lotien, then bomb the Chen-Yu Hospital six days later. In December 1937, the new ICRC delegate to Shanghai, Doctor Louis Calame, organises facilities for internal refugees in a demilitarised zone set up in Nantuo with help from missionaries like Father Jacquinot de Besange. At the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, the American Red Cross (ARC) also intervenes on the Chinese side. However, volunteers in the US are reluctant to raise funds for a political show which allows Washington to discreetly disapprove of Japan without resorting to economic sanctions or a military intervention. The Japanese takeover of China puts an end to relief operations anyway. After the fall of Nanjing and Canton, the Chinese Red Cross has to move to Hong Kong before going into exile in Haiphong, Vietnam, throughout World War Two, up to the retreat of Japanese forces in 1945. As for the ICRC, it lacks funding and can only keep an honorary delegate in Shanghai until September 1950, where he is unable to create a demilitarised zone when the Communists seize the city in May 1949. During the civil war, Geneva looses contact with the Chinese Red Cross, which splits into two. One group goes with the nationalists to the Island of Formosa, now Taiwan, while the other stays on the continent and is put under complete communist control. In the People’s Republic of China, the Mao Zedong regime takes time to liberate the last Japanese prisoners of war before ratifying the four Geneva Conventions on 28 December 1956. Recognised by the ICRC in October 1950 and presided by Minister of Health Li Te-Chuan, the Chinese Red Cross does not carry out any humanitarian activity and is mainly a political body whose purpose is to challenge the legitimacy of Chiang Kai-Shek’s government in Taiwan. Indeed, the exiled nationalists claim continuity of their authority over the continent, but their national Red Cross society is downgraded. The situation sets off a diplomatic row because the authorities in power in Taipei have signed the Geneva Conventions on 12 August 1949, before Beijing. The ICRC therefore invites two governments but only one national society to the International Conferences of the Red Cross. As a result, the Taiwanese delegate withdraws in protest at the admission of a representative from mainland China in 1952, and Beijing boycotts the meetings after 1957. Despite ICRC President Paul Ruegger’s official visit in March 1951, the Communist Red Cross refuses to circumvent Pyongyang and to relay the Committee to assist wounded and ill combatants, prisoners of war and civilian victims of the fighting in North Korea. Because Beijing disputes whether the Geneva Conventions apply in occupied territories, the ICRC is also refused permission to intervene in Tibet, invaded by the Chinese Red Army in 1950. The organisation has to settle for providing relief to refugees in mountain camps in Nepal, where supplies are distributed from 1959 onwards with a DC-3 lent by the Order of Malta. Likewise, during border fighting in October 1962, Geneva is allowed to conduct visits on the Indian side but not the Chinese. On its own initiative, Beijing finally releases and repatriates its prisoners in June 1963, arguing that Chinese representatives should have access to their nationals without going through the Red Cross, as the two countries have not cut off diplomatic relations. In another example, the ICRC is only authorised to be present at the repatriation of Vietnamese prisoners of war captured during a border conflict with Hanoi in May and June 1979. The situation improves after Mao Zedong’s death. Dialogue is especially productive in the British territory of Hong Kong, where the local Red Cross handles Chinese refugees from 1962 and later Vietnamese boat people from 1975. In October 1987, the ICRC sets up a delegation there with two main objectives:  to promote humanitarian law throughout the continent and to facilitate the identification of family members separated by the withdrawal of nationalist forces to Taiwan in 1949. If Geneva has no access to political prisoners or victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989, it gets permission to visit Vietnamese prisoners of war captured during the February 1979 border conflict and the March 1988 confrontations around the Spratly Islands. With the Cold War coming to an end, increasing Red Cross cooperation in the region contributes to easing diplomatic relations. The Hong Kong Red Cross society is officially invited to Beijing in 1980 and, in 1991, provides relief to flood victims on the mainland. The Red Crosses of the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan re-establish direct contact in December 1990. As China attempts to better its image in the hope of hosting the 2000 Olympic Games in Beijing, negotiations continue over giving the ICRC permission to visit prisons. The Geneva Committee eventually opens a regional delegation in Beijing in July 2005 and tries to cooperate with the Chinese Red Cross to assist North Korean refugees in Yunnan province.

-1928, The Netherlands: More conciliatory than his predecessor Gustave Ador, the new president of the ICRC, Max Huber, negotiates an agreement with the LRCS in order to cancel projects to merge the two organisations discussed at the Eleventh and Twelfth International Conferences of the Red Cross held in Geneva in 1923 and 1926. During the Thirteenth International Conference, held in The Hague in 1928, the movement adopts statutes for national societies, the Geneva Committee, and the League. The debates offer an opportunity for all these organisations to coordinate and share tasks. The ICRC is given responsibility for relief operations during wartime; the LRCS, during peacetime. Given the lack of dialogue that followed the end of World War One, a permanent commission is created to maintain ties between two international conferences of the Red Cross. Its main aim is to solve questions and disagreements that might come up between the ICRC and the LRCS or national societies. However, the international conferences retain the real decision-making power, serving as a sort of supreme court. Having no real influence over projects discussed in 1926, the commission poses no threat to the LRCS’s leadership role nor the political independence of the ICRC, which holds on to its role of moral guardian to the Geneva Conventions. As a result, the Red Crosses from northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) protest and pull out of the League until 1930.

-1929-1945, United States: Following the economic crisis of 1929, the American Red Cross (ARC) confirms its increasing isolationism and pulls out of Europe. After the dissolution of its War Council in February 1919, its membership had already drop from 20,386,000 in 1919 to 8,988,000 in 1920, 3,506,000 in 1922, and 3,012,000 in 1925. A former judge and Interior Secretary under Woodrow Wilson’s administration, its president John Barton Payne is no longer in a position to lead large-scale international operations since he succeded Livingston Farrand, who resigned in October 1921 to take up a post in Cornell University. In 1930, the ARC’s budget is only 3 million dollars, barely one-third of the sum available in 1920, which was partly lost in an important – but less successful than anticipated – fundraising campaign. As soon as February 1920, these financial difficulties were compounded by severe criticism from Illinois Republican Senator Lawrence Yates Sherman, who made claims of an excessive bureaucracy and overheads, which accounted for 40% of the organisation’s expenses. New York Republican House Representative Lester David Volk called for an investigation in 1921. The ARC’s national treasurer, John Skelton Williams, was unable to disprove the accusations. And before resigning, Frank Persons, former director of civilian relief operations during World War One, wrote a report recommending the organisation reduce its activities and focus on US public health programmes. Nor was the ARC immune to political controversy. When Mississippi  suffered flooding in April 1927, the organisation is accused of providing food to white people only, while the Blacks are held in camps under the control of their employers, who want to send them back to work on plantations still under water. During various demonstrations around the country in 1928, the ARC is also criticised for refusing to distribute food to strikers on the pretext that it does not want to become involved in labour disputes. Consequently, unions ask their members to stop donating money to the Red Cross and to give instead to social organisations for workers. Likewise, the ARC is accused in 1932 of hindering a demonstration by World War One veterans who call for an increase in their pensions, because the Red Cross offers their wives and children free transportation home before they arrive in Washington. With unemployment increasing as a result of the Depression, the presidential debate soon pits Herbert Hoover’s Republicans, who favour a free economy and are opposed to government intervention, against Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats, who support a welfare state and the New Deal to drive consumption. At the time, the ARC’s board wants to remain independent and collect funds only from private donors. In January 1932, it refuses an offer by Democratic Senators to provide $25 million in subsidies for aid to drought victims. However, it accepts to distribute wheat and cotton surpluses on behalf of the Republican government. After Franklin Roosevelt is elected president, the organisation is especially wary that social programmes put into place by Democrats would encroach upon its activities. Indeed, the ARC focuses on domestic issues and puts aside its international operations. In 1937, the failure of its fundraising drives for China and Spain confirms the isolationism of the American people, not to mention Catholic donors’ hostility towards relief for the “Reds” (Republicans) in Madrid. But when Great Britain and France declare war against Germany in September 1939, attitudes change. In the US, the ARC begins to prepare the civil defence by training more than 100,000 relief workers and nurses. Abroad, the organisation does not attempt to fight the blockade affecting areas under Nazi occupation. After the German Red Cross refuses its assistance, it only works with the Allies. In March 1941, the ARC sets up an Emergency Council that, like its predecessor in World War One, manages all overseas operations under the leadership of Thomas Lamont, a banker with close ties to John Pierpont Morgan’s financial institutions. The organisation’s militarisation is confirmed after Washington enters the war against Japan and Germany, following Tokyo’s attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. The ARC, which has made peace and signed a cooperation agreement with American unions, follows the advance of US troops in Asia and Europe. Its volunteers are incorporated into the army and deployed to the front lines. Many die during combat, especially in the Battle of Guadalcanal in August 1942 and the July 1943 landing in Sicily. Others fall victims of Nazi bombings against establishments that are supposedly protected by the Red Cross emblem. In Sicily, a nurse from San Francisco is killed on 7 February 1944 during an airstrike on a health centre in Anzio, while three hospital ships are hit by German planes. According to Charles Hurd, the ARC looses a total of 86 volunteers, 52 of whom are women, between 1941 and 1945. Yet its medical activities are less widespread than in World War One because army health services are much better developed and refuse volunteers’ involvement, especially in the Pacific, where tensions are high. As a result, the Red Cross focuses more on relief to American soldiers and prisoners of war. For the troops, it opens entertainment clubs where alcohol and gambling are forbidden and where female dancers are checked by military police to avoid immorality. At the request of the Army, soldiers have to pay for their meals so they are not tempted to abuse their privileges. But when American troops land in Europe, the ARC, which applies racial segregation and refuses black blood donors, is soon accused by the British press of discrimination in favour of whites and officers. In January 1942, the organisation decides to create two blood banks, one for blacks and the other for whites. The liberation of occupied Europe highlights the ARC’s competition with the British Red Cross, which had hoped to be the first to operate in France and Italy.

-1930, Belgium: Discussed during revisions of the Geneva Convention the previous year, a new code on prisoners of war and war wounded is adopted at the Fourteenth International Conference of the Red Cross in Brussels in 1930. But it fails to include the protection of civilians of enemy nationality in occupied territories or warring states.

-1931-1946, Italy: Following requests by the Swiss, French and Italian Leagues for Human Rights, the ICRC calls on the CRI (Croce Rossa Italiana) to assist anti-fascist opponents who have been placed under house arrest and left to fend for themselves on Ponza and Lipari Islands. The Geneva Committee also manages to ensure interviews between the Red Cross and prisoners are not supervised by the detaining authorities. However, it is unable to preserve the CRI’s independence: controlled by Benito Mussolini’s regime, the organisation is led by Filippo Cremonesi, a senator and Fascist sympathiser who replaces Giovanni Ciraolo since 1925. The situation worsens on 10 June 1940 when Italy joins the war, choosing to fight alongside Nazi Germany. Filippo Cremonesi resigns, and is replaced on 1 May 1941 by Giuseppe Mormino, a state councillor who is also Head of Cabinet for the Ministry of the Interior. The CRI finds itself assisting victims of Allied bombings and negotiating the release of Italian prisoners of war held on the Russian and Libyan fronts. As the first anti-Semite measures are introduced in Italy in 1940, the ICRC is given permission to visit Jews held in camps di concentratamento. In September 1943, however, the Nazis invade northern Italy and interventions in favour of deportees can only recommence in April 1945, during the last days of the war, as part of a swap involving German prisoners held by the Allies. While southern Italy now fights alongside American troops, the Geneva Committee is not allowed to assist Italian military detainees in the north, as they are not recognised as prisoners of war by German authorities. Only after the Allied victory and Nazi defeat does the ICRC gain access to all victims of the conflict, its delegation in Rome being active until June 1950. As for the CRI, it is reorganised under the auspices of Doctor Umberto Zanotti Bianco in August 1944. Purged of its Fascist elements until a general amnesty is declared in June 1946, it is not fully operational before the 1960s, when the organisation is led by Doctor Giuseppe Potenza.

-August 1932-October 1935, Bolivia, Paraguay: When border skirmishes break out in the Gran Chaco area, the ICRC sends as delegate Emmanuel Galland, a secretary of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Buenos Aires. He is given permission to visit prisoners of war on both sides in May and July 1933. But the conflict worsens in November 1934 and the Committee has to provide relief to 18,000 detainees in Paraguay and 2,500 in Bolivia despite the fact that none of these countries has signed the 1929 Code dealing with the treatment of war wounded and prisoners of war. Focused on the aftermath of World War Two in Europe, however, the ICRC is not able to assist the victims of political unrest in Paraguay from March 1947 onwards. In a final analysis, explains Daniel Palmieri, it appears that the Geneva Committee was “amateurish” and “dilettante” in a Latin American country it had little knowledge of. Lacking resources and motivation, the ICRC took a year to intervene in the Gran Chaco region, and another year to return there. Its visits to prisoners camps were looked upon unfavourably by national Red Crosses: given advance warning, the authorities had time to present the situation in the best light. In November 1934, ICRC delegate Lucien Cramer thus spoke of “satisfactory” detention conditions, even though he had no access to frontlines, where warring parties killed wounded soldiers and subjected prisoners to corporal punishment, executions and forced labour, depriving them of food, clothing and medical care. Worse still, the Geneva Committee was guilty of social and racial discrimination, as it favoured White officers over Indian soldiers. Treated as canon fodder, and overrepresented in groups of mistreated prisoners, the latter were considered “primitive”, inferior, uncultivated and prone to “exaggerating their complaints and even inventing fictive ones”, according to the ICRC’s reports at the time.

-1933-1945, Germany: Adolf Hitler’s rise to power poses one of the greatest challenges ever faced by the ICRC. Following an agreement signed in November 1933 that remains in place until May 1941, the Geneva Committee initially requests the German Red Cross, the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz), to handle all requests for individual information about civilians imprisoned in concentration camps. Keen not to go against the authorities and to compromise its work, the Committee is careful not to insist too forcefully on particular cases, such as the German pastor Martin Niemoller, arrested in July 1937 for protesting against Nazi policies. The case of the Czech journalist Carl Von Ossietzky, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is also closed shortly before his death as a result of ill treatment in May 1938. Through sheer tenacity, the ICRC (represented by Carl-Jacob Burckhardt) is granted permission by Heinrich Himmler (the head of the SS, or Schutzstaffel) to visit concentration camps of its own choice, rather than those selected by the Nazi authorities. Threatening to end its mission at a time when Adolf Hitler’s government is still seeking to assuage public opinion in Western Europe, the Geneva Committee also negotiates for the right to speak to prisoners without supervision. In 1935-1936, Carl-Jacob Burckhardt is allowed to visit the concentration camps of Esterwegen (near the Dutch border), Lichtenberg (in Torgau) and Dachau (near Munich). But his inspections fail to improve the conditions of detention, while his successors are consistently rebutted by the Nazis, who refuse to grant access to other camps. Nothing new emerges from the visit to Dachau of another ICRC delegate, Colonel Guillaume Favre, on 19 August 1938. The camp is described by his assistant, Georges Chessex (who had undergone military training in Germany), as “a model in terms of facilities and administration”. According to his report, prisoners are well treated and in good health, and plans are being made to build big “showers”! The activities of the ICRC then change significantly when Britain and France declare war on Adolf Hitler in September 1939. The focus of the Committee is redirected to traditional activities aimed at assisting prisoners of war. Geneva makes a recommendation to the effect that the treatment of detained civilians in enemy territory should comply with the 1934 Tokyo project: with the consent of Adolf Hitler’s government, Anglo-American Israelites are therefore protected from deportation to concentration camps. However, except for a delegation in Berlin in 1940, the ICRC is not granted permission to open offices in most of the Nazi-occupied countries, including Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Bohemia-Moravia. The delegates based in Berlin are required to deal only with prisoners of war detained within Germany. They have immediately to calm things down and quell rumours when, in June 1940, the Nazis threaten to execute ten French prisoners of war for every German prisoner of war supposedly killed by the enemy. In addition, even though the Geneva Conventions protect approximately ten thousand Jewish Allied prisoners of war, the ICRC delegates fail to save the Spanish Republicans who had enrolled in the French army in 1939 and who were deported to Mauthausen: out of 8,000 detainees, 5,000 die before their liberation in 1945. After the German attack against the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Committee is also unable to help German and Soviet prisoners of war, with both sides justifying their refusal of Geneva’s assistance on the grounds of reciprocity. It is estimated that out of five million Russian prisoners held by the Nazis, between two and three million disappear or die, including 85,000 prisoners of war exterminated because they are Jewish. The situation is deteriorating among the Allies too. In a landing attempt in Dieppe in August 1942, Canadian commandos capture and handcuff a number of German soldiers. The Nazis retaliate immediately by subjecting British prisoners of war to ill treatment. Moreover, the Allies fail to reach an agreement with the Nazis to repatriate military detainees, unlike during World War One, when the French and the Germans agreed in April 1918 to send officers imprisoned for more than eighteen months and aged over 48 to Switzerland. In World War Two, the only prisoner exchanges are carried out in October 1943, then in July-August 1944 when a small number of injured soldiers and civilians transit via Lisbon (Portugal) before reaching Gothenburg (Sweden) in September 1944. Uninjured and older soldiers remain in detention, partly because the British Admiralty is keen not to release trained German officers urgently needed by their Navy. Amid ever-increasing reprisals, the ICRC fears that the belligerents might reject the Geneva Convention. Following the failed landing attempt in Dieppe in August 1942, the crisis is such that in order to avoid worsening the situation, the members of the Committee opt not to resume negotiations with the Nazis over the treatment of civilians. During a meeting held in Geneva on 14 October 1942, the ICRC decides to remain silent about the concentration camps, the genocide of the Jews and the extermination of the Roma. Quoted by Mitchell Bard, a head of the Committee’s information department, Roger Du Pasquier, justifies this position by claiming that any denunciation of the Nazis would have been pointless and might have compromised the actions taken to defend prisoners of war. Moreover, attempts to protect civilian detainees would not have saved a significant number of lives: it is estimated that of the 5,100,000 Jews killed by the Nazis, 4,300,000 are executed in the hours following their arrival in camps or their arrest near the Russian front. But it is not altogether certain that the Germans would have rejected the Geneva Conventions, especially after 1943, when the military setbacks suffered by the Nazis mean that an ever-increasing number of their own soldiers are imprisoned by the enemy. The wish of ICRC members to preserve their neutrality, to pursue relief operations and to maintain a dialogue with the regime of Adolf Hitler looks more like a pretext. Described by the historian Walter Laqueur as an act of “complicity”, their guilty silence actually serves the interests of the Swiss government, which funds half of the budget of the ICRC and, fearing a German invasion, closes its borders to Jewish refugees in August 1942. In a documentary by Christine Rütten entitled “The Red Cross under the Third Reich” broadcast on the Franco-German television channel Arte on 26 September 2007, Carl-Jacob Burckhardt is even accused of being an anti-Semitic Germanophile: he destroys compromising archives and refuses to provide Jewish organizations with information about concentration camps despite the fact that the Allies denounce the final solution on 17 December 1942. Invoking its official mandate, the ICRC argues that civilians are not within its province and, on 23 August 1943, it only summons the belligerents to comply with the 1929 Convention on prisoners of war. Worse still, the DRK stipulates that requests for individual information must make reference to the Aryan character of civilian detainees. The ICRC complies, thereby divesting itself of its right to inquire about the fate of Jewish deportees. The Geneva Committee also fails to use the Nazi propaganda on the ‘military necessity’ of imprisoning Jews as an argument that might have helped to circumvent national sovereignties and to assimilate suspects to foreigners in order to claim the same right of access as for civilians from an enemy state. Likewise, in order to be able to continue providing assistance to Allied prisoners of war, the ICRC opts out of underground rescue operations and plans to dismiss one of its nurses who had helped to smuggle Jewish children out of France into Switzerland. Finally, the Committee refuses to violate its humanitarian principles and to force the Nazis to grant access to concentration camps by threatening to stop all aid to German prisoners of war. All of the actions taken in defence of Jews remain fruitless. As a result, Geneva decides to refocus its activities on supplying concentration camps. Because of the low number of identified and located prisoners, the level of aid provided by the Committee is significantly reduced since only named parcels are authorized. The Allies impose a ban on collective consignments until June 1944, fearing that the supplies would be diverted by the Nazis without the presence of ICRC delegates. Regarding their own soldiers held by the Germans, permissions (the so-called navicert) are granted on a case by case basis, and only when representatives of the Committee are able to interview prisoners freely. Jewish detainees held in concentration camps become even less of a priority because the Allies are keen to limit the level of humanitarian aid in order to suffocate the war economy of the Third Reich. London is particularly vigilant in supervising the blockade, though not without some contradictions: from August 1940, the British send collective relief to their soldiers held by the Germans, and from June 1942, they agree to ship supplies to the victims of the famine in Nazi-occupied Greece, with a total tonnage in excess of the support provided to Jewish prisoners in concentration camps. For the latter, the ICRC has to buy food in Switzerland because the Allies do not issue the certificates required to re-export goods imported from the free world. The reluctance of the British is not altogether unfounded since the Nazis prevent the Committee from monitoring the distribution of parcels in concentration camps. The ICRC must therefore settle for acknowledgements of receipts signed… by the SS themselves, or by several detainees, in which case it helps to identify deportees. In Mauthausen, all of the parcels are misappropriated, forcing the Committee to suspend the operation. Generally speaking, the level of return of receipts never rises above 15% and only increases at the end of the war, reaching 38% in Hambourg-Neuengamme in September 1944, 45% in Buchenwald and a maximum of 80% in Dachau and Ravensbrück. According to the World Jewish Congress and its representative Gerhart Riegner, the majority of the prisoners identified by name did in fact receive their parcel. But the operations serve the interests of Nazi propaganda. For example, on 23 June 1944 in Theresienstadt, a model Jewish ghetto, and again on 29 September in Auschwitz, the Germans stage the visits of an ICRC delegate, Maurice Rossel, who is prevented from meeting prisoners and from leaving the offices of the Kommandantur to access the camp itself. Broadcast on Nazi radios, the event is used as a means of denying all allegations of ill treatment. The Committee therefore decides not to communicate its report to the Germans and the Allies. It is not until 2 October 1944 that the president of the ICRC, Max Huber, officially demands an improvement of the treatment of Jewish detainees in a note sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. His initiative results in a meeting with the SS in charge of concentration camps, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, on an Alberg road on 12 March 1945. The ICRC proposes that its trucks supplying the inhabitants of Berlin under aerial attack from the Americans should not return to Switzerland empty but with civilian detainees. A handful of Jewish prisoners are thus freed in exchange for Germans caught by the Allies in Europe. Later on, the ICRC delegates are the first to enter Nazi concentration camps to provide first-aid to survivors, including those held at Mauthausen, Dachau and the fortress of Theresienstadt just days before the surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945. According to the historian Jean-Claude Favez, several reasons may account for the passivity of the Committee in dealing with the final solution: a sense of impotence; the fear that belligerents would denounce the Geneva Conventions if pressed to improve the treatment of civilian detainees; and the reluctance of the Allies to grant visas to Israelite asylum seekers. For Marc-André Charguéraud, the blame lies primarily with Western powers, who refuse to support the ICRC, to sign the Tokyo project of 1934, to relax the blockade of Germany, to accommodate significant numbers of Jewish refugees and to fund operations that do not target their own prisoners of war. We might add the bureaucratic inertia of the Geneva Committee: to avoid compromising its neutrality, the institution fails to condemn the DRK, which was entirely Nazified in the name of “restructuring” (gleichschaltung), and it reprimands the personal initiatives of its delegates when they try to save Jews. In March 1944, Jean de Bavier is therefore relieved of his duties in Budapest for denouncing the final solution. Louis Haefliger is accused of abusing his position and forced to resign in August 1945 for taking part in an American military operation to disarm guards and liberate the camp of Mauthausen on 5 May 1945. The ICRC, which had publicly criticized the use of chemical weapons during World War One, remains completely silent about the Nazi gas chambers. It is only at the very last minute, when it is already too late, that the new president of the Committee, Carl-Jacob Burckhardt, attempts to force the hands of the Nazis by threatening to disclose the truth about the concentration camps in a letter sent to Ernst Kaltenbrunner on May 1945.

-1934-1945, Japan: a number of measures to protect civilian populations in the event of war are outlined at the fifteenth international Red Cross conference held in Tokyo in October 1934. In a display of remarkable complacency, however, the delegates choose not to question the Japanese authorities over the military occupation of China, the bombing of urban centres and the massacres of civilian populations. The conference is therefore a relative diplomatic success for a country that had withdrawn from the League of Nations after invading Manchuria in September 1931. Despite having signed up to the 1929 Geneva Convention over the war-injured, though not the prisoners of war, Tokyo remains intransigent and ultra militarized. Following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the United States in December 1941, Japan officially agrees to the appointment of just three ICRC delegates in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In May and November 1943, the Committee is granted supervised access to a handful of Allied prisoners of war in the “Japanese zone” in Korea, Manchuria and Formosa. But it is not given permission to provide supplies and to meet detainees freely. Despite his knowledge of Japanese and the trust of the government, the ICRC delegate in Tokyo, Dr Fritz Paravicini, is forced to write laudatory reports after conducting visits closely supervised by the authorities in the prefectures of Osaka, Hyogo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka in March 1943. His assistant, Max Pestalozzi, fares no better when he inspects the camps of Kiraoka in the region of Nagano in August 1943, Hakodate on the Island of Hokkaido and Ishinomaki near the city of Sendai in August 1943, and Zentsuji on the Island of Shikoku in December 1943. Chaired by Prince Kuniyuki Tokugawa, the JCRS (Japan Red Cross Society) proves to be of no use whatsoever. With a total membership of 15,210,000 in 1945, as opposed to 5,840,000 in 1942, 4,010,000 in 1940, 2,930,000 in 1937 and 2,700,000 in 1934, it is entirely militarized and approves the authorities’ disregard for the 1929 Convention on prisoners of war. Negotiations initiated in April 1942 are hindered by the ill will of the Japanese and the reluctance of the British, who are keen to ensure that the ICRC is allowed to oversee the distribution of aid. For the Allied prisoners of war held by Japan, Tokyo ships two boats and a limited quantity of supplies from Lourenço Marques (Mozambique) in September 1942 and Marmagoa in the Portuguese enclave of Goa (India) in October 1943. But the process is suspended after the American aerial bombing of a Japanese hospital ship, the Buenos Aires, on 27 November 1943. Blocked for a year in Nakhodka near Vladivostok, the Hakusan Maru is only given the authorization to unload its supplies in Kobe in October 1944. The torpedoing of a second Japanese ship, the Awa Maru, by the American Navy off the coast of Singapore in April 1945 puts an end to all attempts to provide relief to Allied prisoners of war. Elsewhere within the Japanese sphere of influence, the actions taken by the ICRC are even more limited, particularly in Southern China, and are banned altogether in the occupied territories of South-East Asia, where the army imposes unfavourable exchange rates and diverts ICRC supplies. In order to continue sending parcels that are regularly searched and stolen by jailers, Geneva is forced to censor its reports on British prisoners of war held in Hong Kong, which are read by the occupying authorities and fail to provide an accurate account of the situation. In the same vein, the ICRC delegate appointed to Singapore after the fall of the city to the Japanese in February 1942 is prevented from supplying aid to the British prisoners of war held in Changi prison and exposed to ill treatment, torture and executions. In the Philippines, declared independent by the Japanese in November 1943, the Committee is not allowed to monitor the distribution of its supplies to Allied prisoners of war and the operation is suspended after October 1944. Worse still, the occupying forces in Indonesia decapitate on 20 December 1943 the ICRC delegate in Borneo, Dr Matthaeus Vischer, and his wife, both accused of espionage. To incite Tokyo to comply with the Geneva Conventions and to stop hard labour for prisoners of war, the reciprocity argument holds little sway since Japanese soldiers often choose suicide over surrender. In the event of imprisonment, they give false names to protect their families from the humiliation of capitulation. Fearing indoctrination and re-education by the Chinese communists, the military command also encourages troops to fight to death and to reject the Christian, Western and ‘anti-Asian’ values upon which the Geneva Conventions are founded. In October 1944, the Allies hold just 6,400 Japanese prisoners of war, as opposed to 103,000 Western soldiers in the hands of the Japanese. The authorities are eventually forced to negotiate as a result of the advance of the American Army. Shortly before the capitulation of Japan on 15 August 1945, the new ICRC delegate Marcel Junod, who officially replaced Dr Harry Angst in March 1944, is able to visit Allied prisoners of war in Mouken, a Manchurian mining town now called Shenyang. With the American Army, the Committee then proceeds to distribute aid to victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and takes part in the evacuation of 34,000 prisoners of war in 103 camps in Japan. After 1945, it will also handle the repatriation of Japanese soldiers held by the Allies.

-1935-1936, Ethiopia: while Benito Mussolini’s soldiers invade Ethiopia and begin to march on Addis-Ababa in October 1935, the Fascists turn down the assistance offered by the ICRC and their own national Red Cross society. Geneva is therefore unable to gain access to prisoners of war held by the Italians, and is restricted to supplying aid to the Ethiopian side only. The first intervention of the ICRC in Sub-Saharan Africa is further hindered by issues of logistics, security and funding, as the institution is forced to tap into reserves spared since World War One. For instance, a European expatriate, Robert Hokman, dies while trying to remove the primer from an Italian bomb in December 1935, while an Egyptian doctor, Mohamed Al Saoui Gomaah, succumbs to illness in Jijiga in March 1936. In January 1936, again, a British Major in charge of logistics, Gerald Achilles Burgoyne, is found dead, killed by Fascist planes or by Oromo tribes during the retreat of Ras Igazu Mulugeta, somewhere between Maychew and Lake Ashenge. Finally, on 3 May 1936, an Ethiopian of unsound mind assassinates the head of the British Ambulance, André John Mesnard Melly; just days later, six expatriates are injured and a nurse, Elfrida Stadim, is killed during the sack of Addis-Ababa. Meanwhile, the ICRC is forced to give up transporting supplies by road because of the distances involved: the mountain dirt tracks are too steep and dangerous, causing accidents that result in the death of a Greek truck driver between Addis-Ababa and Dessie at the beginning of 1936. Consequently, the Committee decides to send relief on the small plane of a Swedish Count, Carl Gustav von Rosen, who will later work for the British secret services to assist the last remaining pockets of resistance in Western Ethiopia in 1936, then to set up the Air Force of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1946 (in addition to dropping aerial supplies over the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw in 1944, he also fights for the Fins against the Russians in Karelia in 1940 and the Biafra secessionists against the Nigerians in 1968, before being killed during the Ogaden War in 1977). For the ICRC, another problem is that the Italians fail to comply with international humanitarian law and bomb hospitals indiscriminately in Dessie on 6 December 1935, Degeh Bur on 4 January 1936, Amba Aradam on 16 January and Korem on 17 March. For example, to avenge a pilot killed by Somali bandits after his plane crashed near the border, Fascist aviators retaliate, injuring approximately fifty people and killing twenty-eight Ethiopians and a Swedish nurse, Gunnar Lundstroem, at Melka Dida in the region of Sidamo along Ganale River on 30 December 1935. Subsequent aerial attacks destroy a British hospital in Korem on 4 March 1936, killing five patients and injuring a further four. As for the headquarters of the Ethiopian Red Cross, it is looted during the sack of Addis-Ababa in May 1936. Despite ratifying the 1925 protocol banning the use of chemical weapons in 1928, the Italian authorities also drop lethal gases on the grounds that their enemy is executing prisoners of war. In order not to compromise its political neutrality or to undermine its relations with the Fascists, the ICRC refuses to release any information and to take part in an inquiry conducted by the League of Nations. Instead, it chooses not to issue a public condemnation of Benito Mussolini and merely voices a discreet opposition through the Italian Red Cross and standard diplomatic channels. A victim of blackmail for his presumed homosexuality, the ICRC delegate in Addis-Ababa, Sydney Brown, is even prevented from reporting on the atrocities committed by the Italians. After his return to Geneva, he is forced to resign, accused of siding with the Negus, refusing to investigate on Ethiopian abuses, leaking confidential reports and signing a protest by the local Red Cross. In fact, as explained by Rainer Baudendistel, the ICRC is not impartial. Its members believe in the Fascist mission in Africa and do not trust the natives, who are seen as savages. Furthermore, they are keen to preserve good relations with Italy, since Switzerland has no economic interests in Abyssinia. As a result, they place so much trust in the Fascists that they fail to warn Red Cross staff to use gas masks. Biased, the ICRC only relays the requests of the Italians on prisoners of war detained by the Ethiopians, and not vice-versa despite the numerous demands by Addis-Ababa. Likewise, the Committee does not challenge the Fascists, who claim that the bombing of hospitals is a collateral damage due to bad weather or the abuse of the Red Cross emblem by the natives. Several arguments seem to prove this point. First, the Italian Air Force accidently bombs one of its own hospitals during an attack that causes 18 deaths and 81 casualties. In addition, the Ethiopian government refuses to follow the rules of European Red Cross societies and to announce in advance the location of its hospitals, fearing the enemy would be informed of its military positions. The Fascists therefore argue that they do not even know where the Red Cross clinics are located. This is in all likelihood a lie since they have no reason to attack places where there are no military objectives; on the contrary, the bombings of Melka Dida on 30 December 1935 and Korem on 4 March 1936 are retaliatory measures after, respectively, the killing of an Italian pilot and firing from a hill nearby. The Fascists continue nevertheless to argue that the Ethiopians abuse the emblem and conceal weapons within the premises of their hospitals. Indeed, the governor of Harar, Dajjazmach Nasibu Zamanuel, plants a Red Cross flag on the roof of a hospital containing a military radio in September 1935. Moreover, the Italians discover ammunitions in a Swedish Red Cross truck left in the forest of Wadara during the retreat of Ras Desta Damtew in January 1936. But these abuses are not systematic, precisely because the emblem fails to provide any protection against Fascist bombing. They are only highlighted in a propaganda war against the cruelty of the Abyssinians, who are accused of shooting Italian nurses on 20 January 1936 and of killing three people during an attack on a small clinic near Maychew on 31 March. Humanitarian personnel and mercenaries who left the Negus Army testify about the execution, emasculation or torture of prisoners of war at the hands of the Ethiopians. However the Italians may have paid bribes to secure these accounts, especially amongst the staff of the Egyptian Red Cross in the Somali region of Ogaden. As a matter of fact, the Fascists intimidate those who witnessed bombings and, in order to force them to withdraw their statements, they threaten to execute two Polish employees of the Ethiopian Red Cross captured at Amba Aradam on 16 February 1936. In the same vein, they violate the Geneva Conventions by treating the expatriates of the Ethiopian Red Cross who fall into their hands in April 1936 as prisoners of war: a Greek doctor, Georges Dassios, at Weldiya, and a French nurse, Albert Gingold Duprey, at Dessie. In this context, the silence of the ICRC raises several issues. First, it compromises the movement because the Red Cross societies that dispatched ambulances on the field inform the international community against Italian abuses. Secondly, it serves the interests of Benito Mussolini, who tries to avoid an official condemnation and a vote on economic sanctions at the League of Nations. To circumvent the Italian Red Cross, the ICRC communicates directly with the Duce and asks for an official investigation after the bombing of the Swedish ambulance in Melka Dika in December 1935. But its proposition helps the Fascists to gain time and to avoid an intervention of the League of Nations. Benito Mussolini orders his troops to spare the Red Cross hospitals for a while and delays the investigation until the defeat of the Negus. The ICRC White Book on the issue merely reflects Italian propaganda. According to John Spencer, at the time an American consultant for the Ethiopian Foreign Office, the president of the Geneva Committee, Max Huber, literally “prostituted his own reputation and that of international law to the call of political convenience”. Likewise, he subsequently changes the agenda of the international Red Cross conference of 1938 to ensure that the delegates will not challenge the use of gas against the troops of the Negus. The paradox is that the Italian Red Cross nevertheless asks the ICRC to apply international humanitarian law and to condemn the Spanish Republicans who bombed and killed one of the drivers of its medical teams on the Francoist side in Sigüenza in 1937.

-1936-1941, Spain: active since July 1936 in the conflict opposing the Republicans and the Francoists, the ICRC creates a legal precedent to justify its humanitarian interventions during civil wars and not merely international wars. Contrary to a commonly-held view, this is not the first time that the Committee becomes involved in an internal conflict, since it had already intervened during the Carlist war of 1872-1876 in Spain. In his Chronological Textbook for a General History of the Red Cross, Gustave Moynier lists 11 interventions by the ICRC in internal conflicts between 1863 and 1899, against 14 in international wars and 11 in colonial expeditions. However, the Spanish civil war of 1936-1939 remains a significant landmark in the history of the Red Cross. Having failed to reach a general agreement with the belligerents, the Committee struggles to visit prisoners, to evacuate civilians in besieged towns, to ensure that separated families are able to remain in touch, and to negotiate for exchanges of military and civilian detainees. For instance, on 20 May 1937, an ICRC delegate, Marcel Junod, obtains the release of the famous Hungarian journalist Arthur Koestler in exchange for the wife of a Francoist commander, Carlos Haya. But the CRE (Cruz Roja Española) is unable to provide any useful help as a result of splitting in two after the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic. Following a decree of 20 April 1931, the organisation had been demilitarized and placed under the authority of the General Health Directorate at the Home Office, instead of the Ministry of War. Yet the CRE was still chaired since 1933 by Ricardo Burguette, a conservative general who led the army in Africa and repressed miners’ strikes in the Asturias in 1917. Forced to resign after the coup d’état of Francisco Franco, the president of the Spanish Red Cross is replaced on 29 July 1936 by Dr Aurelio Romeo Lozano, a member of the small National Republican Party. The other components of the People’s Front in power in Madrid are also represented within the CRE, including the communists, the socialists, the Republican left and the anarchists of the National Labour Confederation. The Francoists therefore establish their own Red Cross in Burgos, chaired by Fernandez Suarez de Tangil y Angulo, Count Vallelano: a former lawyer and mayor of Madrid during the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera. Close to Antonio Maura, a conservative politician, and to General Emilio Mola, one of the brains behind the military rebellion, the president of the nationalist branch of the CRE reluctantly authorizes the ICRC to monitor prisoner exchanges two weeks after a similar agreement is reached with Dr Aurelio Romeo on 1 September 1936. Yet both camps fail to comply with humanitarian law. The Republicans use vehicles bearing the Red Cross emblem to launch an offensive. The Nationalists bomb civilians at Guernica in the Basque Country on 26 April 1937 and Granollers in Catalonia on 1 June 1938. Both sides take hostages, carry out reprisals, execute prisoners, kill medical personnel and attack hospitals. Once the Republican defeat appears inevitable in February 1939, the French Red Cross eventually accommodates approximately 400,000 Spanish refugees. It also sends trucks carrying supplies to Madrid, fallen to the Francoists. The Republican Red Cross is disbanded, giving way to its Nationalist counterpart, and Count Vallelano is replaced, first in December 1940 by a paediatrician who dies shortly thereafter, then in June 1941 by a doctor of law from the University of Madrid, Dr Manuel Martinez de Tena.

-1937-1950: Czechoslovakia: in the conflict between Berlin and Prague over the German-speaking region of the Sudetes, the ICRC is not initially asked to intervene and is only able to maintain contact with the Czechoslovakian Red Cross. Founded in 1919, this organization is chaired since its inception by Dr Alice Masarykova, a Member of Parliament and the daughter of President Tomás Masaryk. But after the German annexation of the Sudetes in 1938, it is unable to resist the proclamation of an independent Slovakian state and the establishment of a protectorate in Bohemia-Moravia in 1939. Purged of its Jewish members, it is de facto dissolved while its director, Dr Vladimir Haering, dies in captivity. In Bohemia-Moravia, it is replaced by a Nazi Red Cross; in Slovakia, by a national society set up in May 1940 and approved by the government of Josef Tiso. However, after a first anti-Semitic law on 15 May 1942, the latter attempts to assist the Jews deported to Germany, for instance to Sered on 20 November 1944, or who remain in the city of Bratislava in hideouts known as ‘bunkers’. The problem is that the Slovakian Red Cross is not supported by the ICRC despite numerous requests since July 1944 to help Jewish prisoners held in camps throughout the country. It is only in October 1944 that Geneva dispatches a representative to Bratislava, Georges Dunand, whose appointment is criticized by the exiled Czechoslovakian government in London because it facilitates the international recognition of Josef Tiso’s regime. Nevertheless, the new ICRC delegate offers shelter to Israelites and provides them with letters of protection. In the same vein, he distributes funds from a Jewish diaspora organization in the United States, the Joint, for which he plays the role of an exchange agent since it is not officially possible to sell foreign currencies to the state bank. In February 1945, he also sends relief to Slovakian guerrillas imprisoned by the Germans because they fight with the Russians. A month later, he assists in the evacuation of several Jewish prisoners ‘sold’ by the Gestapo to Switzerland, just as the supply routes are cut off and the Red Army approaches Bratislava along the Danube. The situation is significantly different in the German protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. Prevented from intervening, the ICRC is forced to wait until April 1945 before being granted the right to send a delegate to Prague, Paul Dunant, in order to carry out a political rather than a humanitarian mission. Indeed, the institution intends to relay to the Allies a message from the gauleiter of Bohemia-Moravia, who proposes to counter the Soviets by helping the Americans to occupy Czechie without engaging in open combat. While the Geneva Committee finally refuses to act as an intermediary in a controversial military negotiation, it gains access to prisoner of war camps in December 1945, after the German defeat and the restoration of a unified Czechoslovakian Republic. Keen to facilitate the repatriation of inmates, it hesitates to lend its support to the forced transfer of the Sudetes under a decree of 2 August 1945 expelling all German minorities in the country. Unlike Slovakia, where it has permanent access to all prisons and where a first visit is conducted in June 1945 in Patronka near Bratislava, the ICRC is not given formal permission to assist civilians detained in Bohemia and Moravia. In Prague, its delegates Walter Menzel and Otto Lehner, who succeed Georges Dunand in August 1945 and August 1946 respectively, are forced to negotiate to provide assistance on a case by case basis. While they are able to supervise and ensure that 10% of their supplies are handed out to German minorities, they are soon forced to reduce their activities. The communists, who come to power in February 1948, eventually shut down the offices of the ICRC in Prague in June 1950. Behind the Iron Curtain, Geneva is no longer able to hand over its assets to the Czechoslovakian Red Cross, restructured under the aegis of Alice Masarykova in 1946 and taken over by the Soviets.

-1938-1947, Great Britain: attended by 54 national societies and held in London in July 1938, the sixteenth international Red Cross conference focuses on the aerial bombing of civilians, particularly in Spain. However, the delegates fail to respond to Japanese abuses in China or the Nazi atrocities in Germany, officially because of a lack of information. Since the Nuremberg laws deprived German Jews of their civic rights in 1935, the ICRC argues that it has no legal mandate to intervene. The other components of the Red Cross movement remain equally passive. At the LRC, a democrat close to the American president Franklin Roosevelt, Norman Davis, is appointed chair of the Council of Governors despite being discharged of ministerial responsibilities and accused by the Supreme Court of fraud because of dubious business activities in Cuba. As for the BRCS (British Red Cross Society), it prepares for war under the authority of the Ministry of Defence and of a diplomat, Arthur Stanley, who joined the organization in 1905 and who heads until 1943 the civilian defence of London against German aerial attacks. As in August 1914 during World War One, the British Red Cross has to merge with the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem at the outbreak of hostilities against the Nazis in September 1939. Initiated in 1935 under the aegis of the Home Office to prepare the civilian defence of the country, this amalgamation, which lasts until May 1947, enables the BRCS to bear a new name and to assist British forces in Egypt without competing officially with the local Red Cross, created in 1912 and recognized by the ICRC in 1924. Another benefit for the BRCS is the strengthening of its operational capacity. Pushed by the patriotism of the population, which donates the equivalent of three million pounds in 1940, the British Red Cross gives up all semblance of neutrality and becomes militarized at a time when the war is widely regarded as the lesser of two evils. According to Dermot Morrah, the organization thus benefits from the unconditional support of the authorities, which no longer find it necessary to open and check the parcels sent to prisoners of war in Germany. Abroad, it therefore becomes an instrument of the government. After its retreat from France in June 1940, it supplies the Russian ally and follows the British and American reconquest of Europe via Syracuse in Sicily and Taranto and Bari on the Italian peninsula from August 1943. Grouped in auxiliary teams known as VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), the nurses of the BRCS wear a khaki uniform and are almost integrated in the army in June 1943. Ill prepared and not always qualified to deal with war injuries, they contribute significantly to the militarization of the nursing profession by providing priority care to soldiers rather than civilians. According to Penny Starns, women play a key role in this regard. In England and Wales alone, 28,000 of the 37,000 BRCS volunteers involved in anti-aircraft defence in late 1940 are women…

-1939-1949, Poland: following the Nazi invasion of September 1939, the Geneva Committee is invited by Berlin to witness first-hand the assassinations of German civilians committed during the retreat of the Polish troops. Despite being used for the purposes of military propaganda, the ICRC delegate in Warsaw, Marcel Junod, is thus able to meet a small number of soldiers imprisoned alongside civilians. However, the ICRC is soon denied access to the 500,000 Polish prisoners of war, who are no longer protected by neutral Sweden and their own state, annexed by the Nazis. Reduced to mere administrative detainees, 65,000 of them are exterminated because they are Jewish. The Soviets, who share the country with the Germans and have not signed up to the 1929 Convention on prisoners of war, also refuse to comply with international humanitarian law and force 25,000 captured soldiers to build a road between Lvov and Novograd. Worse still, in March 1940, the Red Army is ordered by Josef Stalin to execute Polish officers. Asked by the Germans to exhume their bodies in the forest of Katyn near Smolensk in February 1943, the Geneva Committee chooses not to conduct an inquiry that would serve the interests of Nazi propaganda and be opposed by the Soviets. As for the Polish Red Cross, now based in London with its government in exile, it warns the international community about the growing number of concentration camps, particularly in a detailed report released on 8 March 1943. In France, it is no longer able to work in the Northern zone, occupied by the Germans since June 1940, and is forced to hand over its relief operations aimed at Polish prisoners of war to a local department created in 1921, the Service social d’aide aux émigrants. In the Southern zone governed by the Vichy regime, the Polish Red Cross is dissolved on 1 November 1941 and replaced by an agency affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Groupement d’aide et d’assistance aux Polonais en France. Meanwhile in Poland, the organisation remains active thanks to its treasurer, Waclaw Lachert, who remained in Warsaw and who seeks to resist the attempts at integration made by the German Red Cross, the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz). Refusing to take part in Nazi propaganda and to benefit from the sale of a book of photographs of the Katyn massacre, the Polish Red Cross distributes identity cards to first-aid workers to help them avoid deportation to labour camps. However, Waclaw Lachert is unable to prevent the imprisonment of some workers, such as Eugeniusz Sztomberek, arrested by the Gestapo in February 1944, accused of collaborating with the resistance and almost killed in Buchenwald. In July 1944, the Warsaw insurrection puts an end to any possibility of compromise when the headquarters of the Polish Red Cross are burned down by the Germans. Henceforth managed, administered and represented by the DRK, the organization is placed under the authority of a central aid committee, the RGO (Rada Glowna Opiekuncza). In August 1945, the defeat of the Nazis and the Soviet victory change the course of history. The ICRC is able to return to Poland, to open a delegation in Warsaw in April 1946 and to visit prisoners of war left by the Red Army. Allowed in January 1947 to handle the evacuation of German minorities, it continues these activities until its offices are shut down by the communists in October 1949. In the meantime, it also encourages the exiles of the Polish Red Cross in London to close their offices in Geneva in June 1946 and in Paris in March 1947 to join the organization re-formed in Warsaw by the Soviets in January 1945.

-1939-1945, Switzerland: after the declaration of war on Germany by France in September 1939, the LRC is forced to leave its Paris offices and withdraw to Geneva under the leadership of Jean de Muralt, the head of the Swiss Red Cross forced by circumstances to act asinterim president of the League. As for the ICRC, it defers the official recognition of the new Red Cross organizations created during the war with which it maintains de facto rather than de jure relations. Many national societies follow their government in exile in London, such as Norway on 20 May 1940, the Netherlands on 29 May 1940, Poland on 31 October 1940 and Czechoslovakia on 14 November 1940. Others simply disappear, such as the Red Cross of the Free Town of Danzig, established in 1938 and dissolved a year later after the German invasion of Poland. In the Nazi-occupied territories, the ICRC is therefore forced to deal with puppet societies. In Belgium, for instance, the Red Cross maintains a fictitious independence after 1940: all correspondence is required to transit via the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) and its general director, Edmond Dronsart (1892-1965), is arrested briefly in 1942 and definitively removed in 1943 after 37 years of service. The war takes a heavy toll on national societies. The CRF (Croix Rouge Française) suffers 414 deaths, including 242 nurses killed as a result of air raids. The CRI (Croce Rossa Italiana) records 275 fatalities, with 3 nurses drowning as a result of an aerial attack on the hospital ship on 14 March 1941. The ICRC itself looses thirty-seven people: twelve delegates (including two shipping agents) and twenty-five members of the crews in charge of transporting supplies. On land, Ernest Baer dies as a result of a sunstroke during a visit to a prisoner-of-war camp in India; Charles Hubert, of a car accident in Germany; Johann Jovanovitz, of the misconduct of a French gendarme during the Liberation; Matthaeus Vischer and his wife, of decapitation by the Japanese in Indonesia; Georges Morel, William Schmid-Koechlin and Robert Brunel, of health problems in Australia, Belgium and Greece respectively. At sea, Richard Heider and Marcel Reuter disappear in shipwrecks. Indeed, the maritime transport of supplies involves high-risk operations. Of the 43 Red Cross ships listed by Philippe Eberlin during the six years of war, six are sunk and/or gunned down: the Stureborg and the Kurtulus in 1942, the Padua in 1943, the Embla and the Cristina in 1944 and the Zurich in 1946. On 27 October 1943, for instance, the Portuguese ship Padua is destroyed by a German mine off the coast of Cape Faraman near Marseilles, losing six crew members: Manuel Francisco dos Santos, Manuel Soares Canelas, Jose dos Reis, Agostino Pereira, Antonio Feliciano Oliveria and Manuel Francisco Carrapichano. Air raids claim even more lives. While the Stureborg is sunk by Italian planes off Cyprus, killing twenty people on 9 June 1942, the Swedish Embla and the Spanish Cristina are attacked by the British Royal Air Force along the French coastline, the former near Port-Vendres on 6 April 1944, the latter in Sète on 6 May 1944, resulting in the death of a mechanic, Feliz Maranon. The emblem of the Red Cross provides little protection to first-aid workers despite unsuccessful appeals by the ICRC which, on 12 March and 12 May 1940, insists that the belligerents should end air raids on towns to spare the lives of civilian populations. From the outset of the conflict, however, Geneva had reactivated its Central Tracing Agency, a body in charge of the identification prisoners of war in 1914-1918. With its relief committee founded during the Spanish civil war, the ICRC also distributes supplies throughout occupied Europe and takes over the handling of the operations, to the great displeasure of the American Red Cross. In total, the joint commission set up with the LRC in November 1940 dispatches 470,000 tons of food and medical supplies, carries 24 million parcels, transmits 120 million messages and forwards 9 million letters to prisoners of war for the entire duration of the hostilities. On 15 April 1942 and for the first time ever, the ICRC thus establishes a ‘Red Cross Foundation for Transport’ to charter Swedish or Portuguese cargos and hospital ships that bear the Swiss flag and that are theoretically protected by the 1907 Hague Convention. The system enables the institution to use steamboats that are more powerful than the Spanish and Portuguese yachts provided by the British Red Cross in November 1940 to supply Marseille and assist prisoners of war in France. In addition to the Lugano, the Calanda and the Zurich, which are owned by the Swiss government, the Committee hires a number of ships in Stockholm, including the Sven Salen and the Rosa Smith. In the same vein, it charters boats blocked by the fighting and which are no longer used by their owners, to whom they will subsequently be returned after the war: two steamboats (one Belgian, the other American), the Frédéric and the Oriente, respectively renamed Caritas I and Henri Dunant; the Swedish diesel ships Mangalore, Saivo and Travancore; and a Danish cargo, the Frédéric, seized by the Americans, renamed Spokane and used by the ICRC as Caritas II. In parallel, the ICRC staff increases from 57 in 1939 to 1,454 in Geneva, 814 in the rest of Switzerland and 179 abroad in 1945. In recognition of its work, the institution is finally awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December 1944. As for the LRC, it opts to remain in Geneva and does not return to Paris, where the French government had offered to accommodate the organization in the Palais Royal in premises that were to be renovated in March 1947, until the project was definitely abandoned in April 1949.

-1940-1945, France: chaired since 1932 by Marquis Edmond de Lillers, the CRF (Croix-Rouge Française) has to cope with various emergencies after France declares war on Germany in September 1939. Despite the support of its American counterpart and the establishment in 1938 of a national council to coordinate its relations with the Ministries of Health and Defence, the French Red Cross is overwhelmed by the influx of two million Belgian refugees and three million evacuees during the exodus of May 1940. After the Armistice of June 1940, France is de facto separated into a Nazi-occupied zone in the North and a ‘free’ zone in the South, governed by the Vichy regime of Marshal Philippe Pétain. As part of a ‘national recovery plan’, the Société de secours aux blessés militaries is forced to merge with the Association des Dames Françaises and the Union des Femmes de France. According to a communiqué released on 23 July 1940 and confirmed by a law of 7 August 1940, a decree of 1st January 1941 and a ruling of 25 April 1945, the three previous entities are dissolved and can no longer use their former names. The new French Red Cross, which attempts to reunite families separated during the exodus, is soon under pressure. A Member of Parliament in 1924 and an ambassador in Berlin in 1931-1938 and Rome in 1939-1940, its Germanist president, André-Pierre Poncet, is immediately declared persona non grata by the Nazis. His replacement is a professor and grandson of Louis Pasteur, Louis Pasteur Vallery-Radot, who resigns after three months, joins the resistance and launches an underground health department in Paris in June 1942. On 2 April 1941, he is succeeded by Dr Louis Bazy, whose chief task is to supply French soldiers captured and detained by the Wehrmacht. In conjunction with the secretary of state for war, these relief operations are supposed to justify the collaboration with the Nazis since the Vichy government agreed in November 1940 to replace the United States as the authority in charge of protecting French prisoners of war in Germany. By becoming ‘civilian workers’ in the military industry of the Third Reich, however, the latter lose the prisoner-of-war status that secured the assistance of the ICRC and the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Designed as another means of meeting the demand for labour in German weapons factories, the compulsory service of the STO (Service du Travail Obligatoire) exacerbates the problem and organises exchanges on the basis of three civilians for the release of one soldier. Meanwhile in France on 28 October 1940, the CRF is initially given permission to cross the demarcation line to provide supplies in the German-occupied Northern zone after a meeting between Philippe Pétain and Adolf Hitler in Montoire. Suspended the following year, the agreement is renegotiated with the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) and the Nazis, who issue ausweis sparingly and introduce tighter border controls. Because some CRF employees supply clothes, money and false identity cards to gain admission to the South of France, the German authorities force Dr Louis Bazy to resign and replace him from 1942 to 1944 by the Marquis Benoit Joseph Bertrand Marie Gabriel of Mun. Following the invasion of the ‘free’ zone by the Wehrmacht in November 1942, the net tightens still further and a general director of the French Red Cross is briefly imprisoned in early 1944. Under the honorific patronage of the wife of Marshall Philippe Petain, the organisation has to comply with the ideology of the ‘national revolution’. Not content with charging families for the parcels sent to civilian detainees, it thus supplies nationalist books to prisoners jailed at Fresnes: an attitude criticized by the historian Gérard Chauvy and the Lyon-based doctor Jean Rousset, a member of the resistance network ‘Combat’, arrested in November 1942 and deported to Buchenwald. In September 1941, the CRF had already withdrawn from a coordination committee in which the CIMADE (Comité inter-mouvements auprès des évacués), the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Alliance), the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) and the ARC (American Red Cross) had expressed their disapproval of its complacent attitude towards the repressive Vichy policies and its inability to intervene in prisoners camps in the South of France. By contrast, it reactivated the Youth Red Cross, which grew from 32,000 members in 1941 to 200,000 members in 1942. Although the initiative does not strictly speaking come within the duties of the Secours National, the official charitable body of the regime, it aims to fulfil the objectives of Marshal Philippe Pétain. Likewise, the CRF delivers first-aid diplomas that are recognized by the French state in 1943, and works with young volunteers of the “national teams” created by the government in 1942 on the basis of a fascist and racial model (maintained after the Liberation as the Service civique de la jeunesse, this organization will eventually be incorporated within the communist Union de la jeunesse républicaine). Thanks to an agreement reached with the Vichy Home Office on 10 December 1941, the French Red Cross nevertheless gains access to the Jews, Communists and Spanish Republicans detained in the South of France. From January 1942, it opens permanent offices in the camps of Gurs, Recebedon, Noé, Vernet, Brens, Saint-Sulpice La-Pointe, Rivesaltes, Barcarès, Milles and Fort Barreaux, while its delegates are able to visit Sisteron, Saint-Paul d’Izeaux and Nexon on a regular basis. In Northern France by contrast, the French Red Cross meets greater resistance in seeking to enter the camps of Drancy and Compiègne where Jewish prisoners are held pending their deportation. Pushed aside in March 1942, the organization makes an unsuccessful attempt to hand over its relief operations to the ICRC, which fails to secure a right to intervene. In Northern France, the CRF is only able to assist the victims of Allied air raids, including those injured during the battle to liberate Paris, where a young unarmed stretcher-bearer, Claude Hanriot, is accused of supporting the resistance and shot by the Germans on 26 August 1944. After the defeat of the Third Reich, the Gaullists and the FFL (Forces Françaises Libres) take control of the CRF. This is hardly surprising: although their government in exile in London had no official recognition, the supporters of General Charles de Gaulle had already set up a humanitarian branch through a relief charity founded in Brazzaville by René Cassin on 23 August 1941 and formally affiliated with the Vichy Red Cross. With the agreement of the British on 13 December 1943, a London temporary committee of the French Red Cross was then established and chaired by Adolphe Sicé, a former director of the health department in Brazzaville. It is this committee that provides the personnel that reorganizes the CRF after the Liberation of France, while the Swedish Red Cross and the ICRC assist the inhabitants of the last remaining pockets of the German Army in La Rochelle, Dunkirk, Lorient and Saint-Nazaire. Run by Gaullists such as Count Jacques de Bourbon Busset from August 1944 and Louis-Eugène Justin-Besancon from December 1944, the independence of the French Red Cross is threatened with state control as part of a large-scale programme of nationalization of industries. Abuses are reported. In North Africa, from March 1944, the FFL force German prisoners to carry out dangerous demining operations, causing a number of deaths. After the capitulation of the Third Reich in Berlin in May 1945, the French Red Cross does not merely facilitate the return of deported detainees, prisoners of war and young workers of the STO. Between August and October 1945, it also begins to transfer 400,000 German prisoners of war held by the Americans, unfit for work and sent to France to help rebuild and demine the country in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC, which finally succeeds in stopping this deportation, provides legal aid and secures social protection for soldiers of the Wehrmacht who now work as civilians under contract. But it is unable to prevent ‘accidents’ that kill 3,000 and injure 6,000 of the 55,000 German former prisoners of war used to demine the country in the following eighteen months. As for the CRF, it is purged of Vichy collaborators and redeveloped under the presidency of Adolphe Sicé in 1946, Dr Georges Brouardel in 1947, ambassador André-François Poncet in 1955, a director of the Army Health Department Raymond Debenedetti in 1967, lawyer Marcellin Carraud in 1969, ambassadors Jean-Marie Soutou in 1979 and Louis Dauge in 1984, minister Georgina Dufoix in 1989, and professors of medicine André Delaude in 1992, Marc Gentilini in 1997 and Jean-Francois Mattéi in 2005.

-1941-1947, Croatia: alongside the creation of a new Croatian state built on the ruins of Yugoslavia in April 1941, a national Red Cross society is founded under the impulse of Ante Pavelíc and its Ustaše militia. The authorities recognize the Geneva Convention in December 1942 and allow the ICRC to appoint a delegate in Zagreb, Julius Schmidlin, the son of the first Swiss consul in the city. However, when civilian detainees are finally given the status of prisoners of war in January 1944, it is already too late since most of them have already been deported or killed. After the defeat of the Nazis and the departure of Julius Schmidlin, who was forced to flee the country on 5 May 1945, the Yugoslavian Red Cross is reorganized under the aegis of the communists and emerges as one of the most virulent opponents of the ICRC. It blames the Committee for giving supplies to war criminals that were in fact destined for the Jasenovac camp, where hundreds of thousands of prisoners were exterminated. It also accuses the institution of having misled public opinion by describing the situation of the Stalag VIII B in Lamsdorf as satisfactory for Allied prisoners of war, despite the fact that Geneva could not assist Soviet or Yugoslavian inmates condemned to “disappear”. As a result, the ICRC can only appoint one powerless delegate in Belgrade, François Jaeggy, who is accepted by the Yugoslavian Red Cross because he belongs to a left-wing organization, the Centrale Sanitaire Suisse, with close links to the Labour party and the communist partisans that he personally helped in 1944 and 1945. In the face of a blockade imposed by the authorities, Geneva eventually closes its delegation in Belgrade in April 1947.

-1942-1974, Greece: like Oxfam, the ICRC pressures London to secure permission to break the Allied blockade and to send supplies from Istanbul to the Greek victims of a famine in a country starved by the German and Italian occupations. Chartered by the Turkish Red Crescent and the Swedish Red Cross, several ships are able to unload food in the port of Pirée, though the journey is not without risk: fully operational from August 1941, the Kurtulus hits a rock, sinks near the island of Marmara on 19 January 1942 and is replaced by another Turkish ship, the Dumlupinar, until the following August. On 9 June 1942, again, the Stureborg is attacked by the Italian air force off the south-west coast of Cyprus, causing the death of the near totality of the crew: twenty men, including the Swiss delegate (Richard Heider), an Egyptian radiographer (Ahmad Abbas Fareei), two Portuguese drivers (Alfredo Martins and Francisco Teodoro) and sixteen Swedish sailors (John Persson, Axel Martensson, Torsten Bengtsson, Herbert Hedenborg, Arne Persson, Markus Malmkvist, Gustav De Vahl, Assar Peterson, Georg Waegele, Ake Mattson, Stig Johannson, Teodor Alfonso Hammar, Knut Erik Isakson, Axel Peterson, Hilding Jonsson and Carl Olsson). In Greece, the situation is no easier when it comes to helping prisoners of war and freedom fighters held on the continent. Through sheer determination, the ICRC delegate in Athens, André Lambert, is briefly able to access the Hardari camp and assist Jewish detainees in the process of being deported. In Turkey, which remains neutral throughout the conflict, the Committee also monitors exchanges of Italian and British prisoners of war on hospital-ships in Izmir on 7 April 1942 and on 9, 18 and 19 April 1943. In the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, where agricultural production is not enough to feed the population and where the Axis Forces forbid local residents from fishing to prevent the risk of escape, itinerant delegates such as Raymond Courvoisier and Robert Brunel organize relief convoys on small Turkish boats destined for Chios, Furni, Nicaria, Samos and Mytilene in June-November 1942 and July 1943. Despite the diversion of food by customs in Mytilene, these operations are subsequently extended in February 1945 to the islands of Leros, Cos, Kalymnos, Calchi, Pserimo and Rhodes in the Dodecanese. After the withdrawal of Italian and German soldiers, the Geneva Committee remains in Greece to assist the victims of the conflict between the ‘royalists’ and the British army on one side, and the communist guerrillas who operate near the Albanian border on the other. Having secured in March 1945 the commitment of the People’s Army of National Liberation ELAS (Ellinikós Laikós Apelevtherotikós Stratós) to comply with the Convention of July 1929 on prisoners of war, the ICRC delegates monitor the release of civilian hostages and the exchanges of prisoners held by the rebels or by the British. However, the authorities in Athens, who deny the existence of a civil war, soon turn down the services offered by Geneva and only authorize material assistance through the intermediary of the Greek Red Cross. While it is denied access to the communist zones, which receives aid from the Romanian Red Cross, the ICRC gains unsupervised access to prisoners on the government side from May 1947, and more importantly from June 1948 when its delegate Adrien Lambert is relieved from other relief operations designed to assist displaced persons. After the rebellion is crushed in 1949, Geneva attempts to reunite families separated by the conflict, especially the children taken to the neighbouring countries of the Soviet bloc, mainly Yugoslavia and Albania. According to ELAS, the objective was to spare them the suffering of war… or to be in a better position to indoctrinate them, according to the government in Athens. Meanwhile in Greece, access to political prisoners continues unabated: 260 detainees are visited in 89 different locations between 1947 and 1957; 297 in 60 different locations between 1958 and 1970. Though Geneva closes its delegation in Athens in 1955 and the last communist insurgents are released in 1963, the coup d’état of 1967 revives the activities of the ICRC with the arrest of 6,500 suspects. In action immediately, the Committee reports a significant improvement in the conditions of detention in a press statement of 20 November 1967. But to avoid compromising its ongoing operations, it remains deliberately vague about the actual locations visited by its delegates. Arguing that it has already declined similar requests by the League of Nations and the United Nations about the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936 or the South African apartheid after 1960, the institution refuses in January 1968 to disclose first-hand information to the Council of Europe, where the Scandinavian states demand an official inquiry into human rights violations in Greece. As noted by James David Armstrong, the Committee thus makes it possible for the United States to maintain good relations with the military junta, on the grounds that the use of torture is not confirmed by the ICRC. Worse still, extracts from a Geneva confidential report published by the nationalist press in Athens allege that the conditions of detention are satisfactory. Accused by the opposition of conspiring with the junta and the very conservative president of the Greek Red Cross, the ICRC protests in vain against the leaks. Less conciliatory than his predecessor Germain Colladon, a new delegate, Laurent Marti, is appointed in Athens in January 1968 and is able to secure the release of elderly or ill prisoners by threatening to withdraw from the country. While the Greek colonels attempt to handle Western public opinion and the human rights commission of the Council of Europe, the ICRC is granted the right to distribute supplies and to freely access all detention centres without prior notice. Signed on 4 November 1969, the authorization also applies to police stations, and not only to prisons. However, the agreement is rescinded on 3 November 1970 as a result of a decision by the junta to withdraw from the Council of Europe rather than be expelled. Realizing that the threats of international sanctions failed to liberalize the regime, the ICRC leaves Greece in February 1971, on the grounds that its presence has failed to improve conditions of detention. In fact, it even contributed to promoting a positive image of the dictatorship, as explained by a junta official in the New York Times of 9 November 1970. The ICRC only returns to Greece in 1973, during a period of student uprisings, and again in 1974, during the Cyprus crisis.

-1943-1947, Romania: in a country allied with Nazi Germany, the ICRC appoints a delegate, Karl Kolb, in Bucharest in August 1943. The Committee, which already assisted Polish refugees in Romania in September 1939, is keen to preserve its neutrality and to avoid favouring any particular minority. It therefore forbids Karl Kolb from issuing emigration certificates to Israelites and only allows him to distribute funds from the Joint, a Jewish diaspora organization based in the United States. Until the Soviet invasion of Bucharest in August 1944, however, the Romanian authorities cooperate with Geneva because they hope to negotiate a separate armistice with the Allies. The rise to power of the communists paradoxically restricts the opportunities for humanitarian action. According to Folke Bernadotte, for instance, the Swedish Red Cross struggles to keep control of the distribution of its food supplies, but to no avail. The communists seek to favour their supporters and to prevent Western humanitarian organisations from working with members of the Romanian Red Cross close to the former regime, particularly retired army officers, who are eventually forced to resign in 1947.

-1944-1945, Hungary: following the German invasion of Hungary in March 1944, the imminence of the final solution is foreseen by the ICRC delegate appointed in Budapest in October 1943, Jean de Bavier. A brother of the chief delegate of the Committee in Athens, Jean de Bavier attempts to facilitate the emigration of Jews, particularly those of foreign origins such as the Poles. But he comes up against the reluctance of his superiors, who, overwhelmed, have been slow to respond to the many appeals made by the Hungarian Red Cross since December 1941. As usual, the Committee is keen to avoid being accused of interference in the domestic affairs of a country. It therefore recalls Jean de Bavier to Geneva, officially under the pretext that he cannot speak German, though the actual reason is that he is planning to publicly denounce the Nazi atrocities. However, his replacement in May 1944 by a German speaker, Friedrich Born, fails to solve the problem. The new ICRC demegate equally tries to persuade Geneva to press the government of Miklós Horthy to spare the Jews. Because the Nazis are beginning to lose ground and Hungary is the last country to implement the final solution, deportations are very visible and easier to prove. Following the intervention of the Swedish Red Cross and the declarations of the Allies, who view Admiral Miklós Horthy as being personally responsible for the Jewish pogroms in Hungary, the president of the ICRC, Max Huber, decides to break his silence and sends an official letter to the government in Budapest on 5 July 1944. However, deportations are resumed after the coup d’état of 15 October 1944, which brings Ferenc Szalasi to power. On his own initiative, Friedrich Born decides to issue safe-conducts to the Jews, to corrupt the ‘authorities’ and to group the survivors in buildings protected by the Red Cross emblem. In retaliation, his assistant, Otto Komoly, is assassinated on 1 January 1945 by the Arrow Cross Party, a Nazi militia beyond all control since the government went into exile when the Soviets started to bomb Budapest on 14 December 1944. ICRC ambulances are seized, employees arrested and Red Cross premises arbitrarily shut down. The looting of the Jewish ghetto only stops with the Soviet occupation of Budapest on 18 January 1945. Replaced by Hans Weyerman, Friedrich Born is criticized by Geneva for having tarnished the Red Cross emblem, paid bribes and issued false papers. It is argued that the 1,500 safe-conducts for Jews failed to put an end to the pogroms, while attempts to ‘buy’ the mercy of the Arrow Crosses were a great cause for concern for the Soviets, who believed that the ICRC was helping Nazi collaborators to escape. Hans Weyerman is also accused of misappropriation of funds by Jewish American charities, which eventually withdraw their complaint and resolve the issue after reaching an agreement with the Geneva Committee. Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Hungarian Red Cross, Aron Gabor, a journalist on the Russian front, is deported to the gulag because of his writings; it is only in 1960 that he is allowed to return to his country.

-1945-1955, Germany: the victory of the United States and the surrender of the Nazis on 8 May 1945 sanction the almighty power of the ARC (American Red Cross) and cause tensions with the ICRC over the direction of the Red Cross movement, as in 1918. Funded by a budget in excess of 420 million dollars, the American organization employs nearly 40,000 people abroad in 1945, as opposed to just 5,000 in 1941. With 36,645,000 members in 1945, i.e. a quarter of the American population, the ARC boasts a larger ‘electorate’ than any political party in power in Washington. Having established an advisory council in 1946, it proceeds to revise its charter and becomes more democratic by abolishing the conditions for membership that barred poor applicants if the amount of their contribution to the organisation was too low. Compared with the previous system, which dated back to 1904 and included only a third of elected members, the reform of 8 May 1947 establishes an executive board renewed every three years and composed of 50 people, including 8 appointed by the President of the United States, 12 co-opted on merit and 30 nominated at national conventions by local chapters. However, the post-war period and the decline of patriotic fervour result in a decrease of the activities and financial resources of the ARC, pressed by the anti-communists to stop its fundraising operations with American syndicates. With a budget reduced to 50 million dollars in 1947, the organization also suffers a sharp fall in popularity when returning soldiers begin to complain publicly about the services it provided for the GI (General Infantry). According to a survey conducted in 1947 and quoted by Foster Rhea Dulles, just 20% of Americans agree that the ARC is the first institution to which they would be prepared to make a donation, as opposed to 60% in 1944. Reports from Europe do nothing to improve the reputation of the ARC. In Germany in particular, the recreational centres managed by the ARC for the GIs increase the number of illegitimate children born of American fathers and abandoned in orphanages. Other problems stem from the occupying authorities. Since the hostilities have officially ended by this stage, the Americans refuse to grant the status of prisoner of war to German and Japanese soldiers who have surrendered. Within their zone of occupation in West Germany, they prevent the ICRC from assisting military and civilian detainees accused of crimes against humanity. Likewise on the Soviet side, the Committee is denied access to prisoners of war who are eventually repatriated in 1956… or who go missing. The organization, which can only continue to supply food to children and orphans in East Germany until 1950, is forced to refocus its activities on civilians by facilitating the relocation of refugees and internally displaced persons. Among other things, the Committee helps German minorities – in total over 11 million people who, as a result of the measures adopted at the Inter-Allied conference held in Potsdam in July 1945, are temporarily detained pending their deportation to Germany from Czechoslovakia, Poland or Romania. As for the CTA (Central Tracing Agency) of the ICRC, it is ratified on a permanent basis in 1949 and it perseveres in tracking down prisoners of war and civilians dispersed by the conflict: a family reunification programme that affects over 700,000 people from 1947. In the same vein, the Geneva Committee is given the responsibility of running the ITS (InternationalTracingService) in 1955, and it agrees to pay compensations granted by the West German government to prisoners subjected to Nazi experiments, mainly Czechs and Poles. Established in January 1946 in Arolsen, a German town situated at the geographical centre of the American, British, French and Russian zones, the ITS performs a similar role to the CTA: it initially aims to meet the primary needs of released prisoners, then to reunite families separated by the conflict. However, because it operates under the aegis of the Allied High Commission for Germany from April 1951 onwards, it fails to gain the trust of the Soviet Union, which only agrees to grant it access to its archives… in 1989! In the context of the Cold War, the Geneva Committee is indeed seen as an “imperialist” tool of the United States, keen not to reinforce the “biological military strength of the enemy”. Thus in 1948, a secret memorandum inspired by the Americans puts an abrupt end to the search and repatriation programme of 200,000 Polish children kidnapped and transferred to Germany by the Nazis, 30,000 of whom were found by the ICRC. The member countries of the Warsaw Pact act no differently and hinder family reunification in cases that involve the transfer of individuals to the other side of the Iron Curtain. Completely taken over by the communists and purged of the supporters of the government in exile in London during the war, the Polish Red Cross, for instance, only seeks to secure the repatriation of Polish citizens and decides in 1947 to stop sending children to join their parents in Western Europe. In this context, the ICRC struggles to avoid becoming involved in political controversies. Keen to preserve its neutrality, it refuses in 1951 to take part in the appointment of a United Nations Commission to repatriate prisoners of war. Yet its Central Tracing Agency, the CTA, is not immune to criticism and fails to identify war criminals amongst German asylum seekers recommended by the Catholic Church in Rome and assisted legally by an autonomous branch of the Italian Red Cross, the AGIUS (Assistenza Giuridica agli Stranieri). Using false names, a number of famous Nazis such as the Auschwitz chief doctor, Josef Mengele, the SS officer in charge of concentration camps, Adolph Eichmann, and the head of the Gestapo in France, Klaus Barbie, obtain travel documents from the ICRC to flee respectively to Paraguay in 1949, Argentina in 1950 and Bolivia in 1951. In July 2003, the opening of the archives in Buenos Aires and research by historian Uki Goñi uncover further cases of war criminals who were issued a passport by the Red Cross through the Vatican, including Ivo Heinrich, financial advisor to the Ustaše government of Ante Pavelíc in Croatia, and Friedrich Rauch, the SS colonel in charge of concealing the gold of the German Central Bank in 1945. In an article published by the Italian daily Il Secolo XIX on 31 July 2003, the Serbian writer Branko Bokun confirms these findings by providing a first-hand account since he was himself an employee of the ICRC delegation in Rome at the time...

-1946-1948, Switzerland: the American Basil O’Connor, successor to the Swiss doctor Jean de Muralt as head of the LRC in 1946, attempts to democratize the Red Cross movement and to employ paid professionals in addition to volunteers. As he dismantles the joint relief commission that had sanctioned a de facto monopoly of the ICRC on emergencies since 1940, he paradoxically benefits from the support of the communists, who blame the Committee for its silence and its failure to protect Soviet prisoners of war held by the Nazis. Despite the establishment in 1946 of diplomatic relations severed since 1918, Moscow accuses Switzerland of having traded with the Third Reich for the entire duration of the conflict and of interning Russians who had managed to flee Germany. The ICRC, in particular, is viewed with deep distrust and deliberately excluded from the operations conducted in the Soviet Union to release prisoners of war. Following the surrender of Germany in May 1945, its two remaining delegates in Berlin, Otto Lehner and Albert de Cocatrix, are deported by the Red Army along with two local collaborators to camp 27 in Krasnogorsk and camp 20B in Planernaya near Moscow. Before their liberation in Vienna the following October, they are used as hostages to negotiate a compulsory repatriation of 9,000 Soviet citizens who had escaped from Nazi prisons and taken refuge in Switzerland, from where they were likely to settle in Western Europe. Besides the personal position of Josef Stalin, who ignored the Geneva Conventions from the very beginning, the hostility of Moscow is fuelled by the attitude of the ICRC during the fighting. In a statement released on 30 December 1943, for instance, Geneva condemned the measures of retaliation taken against prisoners of war. The objective was to prevent the Japanese from executing American pilots accused of bombing cities. But it was viewed by the president of the Soviet Alliance of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, professor Sergei Alexandrovich Kolesnikoff, as an attack on the first trials of German war criminals conducted by the Soviets in Kharkov. According to Drago Arsenijevic, various indications also led Moscow to believe that Geneva was more afraid of the Soviets than of the Nazis. According to a letter forwarded to the Soviets and sent on 23 July 1941 to the Foreign Office by the British ambassador in Turkey, Geoffrey Harrington Thompson, the ICRC delegate in Ankara, Marcel Junod, supported the idea of a separate peace between London and Berlin to counter the increasing communist threat. Indeed, the Marxist-Leninist ideology never appealed to the humanitarian institution. According to Oran Young, the Committee members were even stauncher anti-communists than the Americans, especially Carl-Jacob Burckhardt, president of the ICRC from 1945 to 1947, suspected of belonging to a think tank hostile to the Third International, the “Théodore-Aubert Committee”. At the end of World War One, the institution had actively contributed to containing the “Reds” in Poland or Caucasia. For example, in 1926, it had deliberately sabotaged a plan elaborated by the famous philanthropist Fridtjof Nansen, who intended to establish an Armenian Republic with the support of the Soviets; instead, the Geneva Committee facilitated a definitive relocation of the survivors of the Turkish genocide in territories under French mandate, namely Syria and Lebanon. As a result, the ICRC struggles to preserve its image of neutrality in the middle of the Cold War. Criticisms come from all sides and not merely from the Soviet camp. In August 1948, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia all refuse to attend the seventeenth international Red Cross conference held in Stockholm. They blame the Committee for failing to save the Jews, condemn Nazi atrocities and sanction or expel the national societies of totalitarian regimes. Calls are even made for the ICRC to be abolished altogether and to turn it into a UN agency or a truly international and democratic organization with Red Cross delegates representing all countries. As a neutral nation active in humanitarian work during World War Two, the Swedes support the Soviet plans for a radical reform of the Geneva Committee. However, in his autobiography, the prestigious president of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, denies any intention or desire to dissolve the ICRC. He explains that he attempted to reinforce the Geneva Committee with other nationals who, in the event of war in their own country, would have been replaced by citizens of neutral states. Convinced of the merits of a Swiss organisation against the communists that he saw infiltrating the Red Cross societies in Eastern Europe, Count Folke Bernadotte quickly abandons his project, admitting that there are not enough neutral states to widen the composition of the ICRC. He therefore supports the proposal made by the president of the Belgian Red Cross, Pierre Depage, to increase the powers of the permanent commission overseeing the ICRC and the League between each international Red Cross conference. To no avail: the historian Caroline Moorehead notes that in the face of criticism, the Geneva Committee becomes more rigid and develops an excessive cult of secrecy under the leadership of its new president since March 1948, Paul Ruegger, a catholic and a former Swiss ambassador declared persona non grata in Fascist Italy. As remarked by Catherine Rey-Schyrr, the intensity of the communist attacks paradoxically saved the institution from disappearing. Because it underlined the need to preserve a neutral intermediary, the rise of the Cold War prevented the ICRC from an internationalization that would have opposed the American and Soviet blocs.

-1947-1957, Vietnam: while the Viet Minh communists fight for independence in the North, the ICRC is quickly granted access by the French colonial authorities to the rebels imprisoned in the South, some 65,000 people in the early 1950s. Appointed in June 1946 and based in Hanoi in January 1947, the ICRC delegate, Charles Aeschlimann, succeeds Henri Hurlimann, appointed in Saigon in August 1945 to provide supplies and facilitate the repatriation of Allied and Japanese prisoners of war. During a ceasefire negotiated by the ICRC on 28 February 1947, the communist guerrillas agree to release 29 civilians through the intermediary of the ‘Vietnamese’ Red Cross of Dr Ton That Tung. Diplomatically isolated, the Viet Minh is in dire need of international recognition and still believes that a peace treaty with France can be reached. But it soon refuses to allow the ICRC to access its prisoner-of-war camps, where mortality rates reach 75% according to first-hand accounts given by survivors. Infuriated, one Committee delegate, Dr Pierre Descoeudres, issues an ultimatum to the guerrilla in August 1947… and is recalled to Geneva because the move only serves to further block the situation. Therefore, prisoner exchanges and evacuations of the injured, such as those conducted in February 1951 and October 1950 in Cao Bong, are negotiated directly between the Viet Minh and the colonial authorities via the French Red Cross, which only begins to coordinate its interventions with the ICRC in 1952. Because it is entirely absorbed by the Palestinian question since 1948, the Committee suspends its activities in North Vietnam, which is officially recognized as a “democratic republic” by the Soviet Union and China in 1950. At the request of Paris and Washington, the ICRC only returns to assist 25,000 soldiers of General Chiang Kai-shek who, after the defeat of the Chinese nationalists in 1949, sought refuge in Indochina and were held by the colonial authorities on the island of Phu Qhoq. As the French military refuses to grant the status of prisoner of war to the Viet Minh rebels in the North, the Committee is equally timorous in the South, where it visits the prison of Con Son on just two occasions between 1947 and 1954. Forced several times to recall its personnel to Geneva, it eventually bans its delegate André Durand, appointed in Saigon in February 1952, from attempting to establish contact with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, which the ICRC seeks to approach through diplomatic channels in New Delhi, Moscow and Beijing. In the North, the organization makes no attempt to protest against colonial obstructions, forced labour and the employment of civilians for dangerous work, the transport of ammunition or the construction of fortifications involving 2,500 military prisoners during the battle of Dien Bien Phu. The ICRC also abstains from communicating its visit reports to the belligerents because Paris deems that there is no state of war and that the fighting is a domestic issue since the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is not recognized by the international community and has not signed up to the 1929 Convention on prisoners of war. Therefore the Committee opts to remain silent until the Geneva Conventions of August 1949 come into force in December 1951 and the French are defeated in Dien Bien Phu in May 1954. In the field, however, the appointment in 1952 of a new High Commissioner in Indochina, Jean Letourneau (1907-1986), enables significant progress by authorizing the provision of medical supplies to the enemy without any guarantee that they would be exclusively distributed to prisoners of war rather than communist fighters. The ICRC had initially hoped that an agreement could be reached with the Viet Minh by proposing aid in exchange for access to prisoners. Yet the communists had waited in vain for Geneva to deliver medical supplies that were provided by the Indian Red Cross and seized by the authorities in Saigon and returned to sender in 1947. Moreover, the Committee was perceived as “imperialist” because it was entirely dependent on French military logistics and escorts to circulate in Vietnam and to access prisoner-of-war camps. Worse still, a meeting between the ICRC and the guerrillas was used by the military to locate and bomb a communist position in 1947. Likewise, on 26 July and 15 October 1951 in Hung Hoa, approximately fifty kilometres north-west of Hanoi, the final negotiations between the Geneva Committee and the Viet Minh were deliberately undermined by the High Commissioner in Indochina, General Jean-Marie de Lattre de Tassigny (1889-1952), keen to prove that the rebels refused to release their prisoners. Meanwhile, the French Red Cross sided with the colonial authorities and took an active part in their operations. Having landed in Hanoi with the expeditionary corps in October 1945, it worked in military hospitals, opened centres specifically designed for soldiers and intervened directly on the front to provide first aid during attacks. After an initial mission lasting from October 1945 to February 1947, special nurses known as IPSA (Infirmières Pilotes Secouristes de l’Air) were even incorporated into the Air Force and three of them were killed in combat. Under these circumstances, the ICRC is unable to negotiate the evacuation of the dead and injured during the battle of Dien Bien Phu from March to May 1954. The belligerents accuse each other of violating international humanitarian law by attacking hospitals and relief convoys. According to General Nguyen Chuong, captured by the French and quoted by Le Monde on 23 April 2004, the African soldiers of the colonial corps finish off all injured Vietnamese soldiers. The Viet Minh fares no better. Since it has no air force, it has nothing to gain from authorizing aerial evacuations and suspects the medical helicopters of the French army of attempting to supply ammunitions and bombing enemy positions. Negotiated in the absence of the ICRC, the principle of an evacuation is only admitted during peace talks that eventually lead to an armistice and the Geneva Agreements of July 1954. After the withdrawal of the French, the Committee attempts to act through the intermediary of the Indian Red Cross and is still not trusted by the communists, now fully in power in North Vietnam. Based in the British consulate in Hanoi, the ICRC delegate from January 1955 to January 1957, Jacques de Reynier, is not authorized to search for civilians or soldiers killed in combat. He is only able to provide a small amount of aid and to monitor the transfer of legionnaires who had defected to the Viet Minh and who were keen not to return to France. In the South, he coordinates his activities with the LRC and leaves the latter to assist some 800,000 Vietnamese refugees, mostly Catholics, who escaped from the North.

-1948-1956, Israel/Palestine: while the Jews of Palestine are fighting to create an independent state of Israel and to gain independence from British colonial rule, the ICRC begins to work on all sides of the conflict in January 1948. As a neutral institution, the Committee declines the offer of the British authorities to be given the responsibility of managing all public hospitals. To preserve its political independence, the ICRC also refuses the protection of armored vehicles belonging to the British army, which leaves the country on May 15. The institution seeks to cooperate with all the belligerents despite the fact that their relief societies are not officially recognized by Geneva, not least because of their emblems – a red star of David on the Israeli side and a mixture of a red cross and a red crescent for the Arabs of Transjordan. On April 3, the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem makes a commitment to comply with the Geneva Convention. The Arabs follow suit two days later after negotiations with the head of the High Committee for Palestine in Cairo, Hadj Amin al-Hussein, a former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and a highly controversial figure as a result of meeting Adolf Hitler in 1941 and promoting support for Nazi Germany. However, the ICRC witnesses cases of significant abuse. On the Israeli side, the Zionist army Haganah opens fire on Arab ambulances and hospitals, while its military formations use the Red Cross emblem to advance into enemy territory. On 9 April 1948, the extremists of the Irgun faction massacre civilians in Deir Yassin: of the village’s 400 inhabitants, the ICRC delegate Jacques de Reynier is able to rescue just 3 survivors. The Arabs also violate international humanitarian law. On 12 April 1948, they attack a convoy of the Red Shield of David (Magen David Adom) heading for the Hadassah hospital under the protection of Haganah soldiers in a Jewish enclave on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. In the middle of the fighting, the ICRC has to request the right to evacuate Israeli inhabitants and to escort supplies unarmed. To protect civilian populations in Jerusalem, the Committee attempts to establish safe areas in a number of locations, including the King David Hotel, the premises of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Alliance), the Terra Santa convent, and the Government Palace in May 1948. Some of these sanctuaries fail to materialize or serve merely to provide shelter to a small number of diplomats and UN employees. Others are soon exposed on the frontline and are partially occupied by Israeli forces in July 1948. In order to gain access to areas supposedly protected by the Red Cross flag, displaced persons must agree not to resell supplies on the black market and to contribute to expenses wherever possible. They are also not permitted to leave the place without official authorization since it is feared that they may communicate vital information to the enemy and compromise the neutrality of the safe haven (two drivers working for the Jerusalem delegation, for instance, are accused of spying by the Israeli authorities). The Committee is careful to preserve the trust of all parties, particularly after the arrival in Jerusalem on June 12 of the UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte onboard a Red Cross airplane to propose a partition plan which is rejected by the Palestinians. To prevent supplying combatants amongst civilians and to avoid further irritating the Arabs, who are aiming to starve the Israelis entrenched in Jerusalem, the ICRC decides to provide relief supplies exclusively to hospitals and not to the general population, a responsibility entrusted to the Committee by article 8 of a truce signed on July 9 1948 under the auspices of the United Nations. However, during a moment of respite, families separated by the events are reunited and Geneva is able to take care of prisoners of war threatened with forced labor. The issue is that the Israeli authorities went against the grain of common practices by granting a prisoner of war status to all imprisoned non-combatants old enough to carry a weapon, thereby enabling ‘repatriations’, i.e. expulsions of detainees aimed at emptying Jewish strongholds of all Arab inhabitants. In a report dated July 1948 quoted by Catherine Rey-Schyrr, Jacques de Reynier notes that his interventions in Israeli detention centers are ‘perhaps made easier by the desire of the Israelis to see all Arabs leave’. Nevertheless, the ICRC begins in May 1948 to operate outside Jerusalem, in Haifa, Nablus, Ramallah and Jaffa, where it is able to evacuate 3,000 Egyptian civilians by boat. After the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte by Israeli terrorists belonging to the Stern group on 17 September 1948, fighting resumes in the Negev Desert on 15 October and the ICRC opens a delegation in Gaza to provide relief supplies to some 200,000 refugees. During the conflict, seven of the organization’s eighteen employees on site are injured, while three of their eight vehicles are machine-gunned and destroyed. Although the Geneva Committee withdraws on 15 July 1949, two delegates remain in the area: one in Jerusalem, the other in Tel Aviv. The humanitarian institution continues to operate through its agency for Palestinian refugees, created in November 1948 and funded by the United Nations. Headed by Alfred Escher, first adviser of the Swiss legation in London, this agency oversees the provision of relief in Israel (from Haifa) and Jordan (from Beirut). With the support of various NGOs, including the LWF (Lutheran World Federation) and the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Alliance), the Committee distributes food, medicine and school supplies. The challenge is to balance the restrictions imposed by the financial backers with the pressures exerted by the Jordanian and Palestinian authorities, which deliberately overestimate the numbers of refugees by including all war victims in order to receive more aid. In addition, the provision of supplies causes tension with local residents since food rations are destined solely for displaced populations. The Geneva Committee therefore uses its own funds to assist civilians without refugee status until it suspends its operations on 1 May 1950, when the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees) takes over under the leadership of a Canadian general, Howard Kennedy. Of the 14,000 people previously assisted by the ICRC in Jerusalem, 11,000 are transferred to the responsibility of the United Nations, while the remaining 3,000 receive aid from the Lutherans of the LWF. Meanwhile, the LRCS (League of Red Cross Societies) continues to support Palestinian refugees in Transjordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, leaving the Quakers of the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) in charge of the Gaza Strip under the aegis of the UN. During the 1956 crisis opposing Egypt to France and the United Kingdom over the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the ICRC returns to the region to provide relief to the inhabitants of Port Said and to repatriate Egyptian prisoners of war by plane, thereby inaugurating the first direct air route between the two countries since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The LRCS and the national Red Cross societies are also involved. From Paris, they help to resettle 160 French families with no contacts in metropolitan France after being expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser. As for the ICRC, it assists until late 1957 some Israelis deprived of their citizenship and viewed as stateless people in Egypt. In total, the Committee facilitates the evacuation of half of all Jews expelled from their country at the risk of assenting to the eviction of an entire community as part of a large-scale anti-Semitic deportation process.

-12 August 1949, Switzerland: in Geneva, the ICRC organizes the signature of the four Conventions for ‘the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field’, ‘the amelioration of the condition of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea’, ‘the treatment of prisoners of war’, and ‘the protection of civilian persons in time of war’. Motivated by the desire to prevent a repeat of the Nazi horrors, the new provisions represent a significant advance compared to the 1864 version. The prisoner of war status, for instance, applies to resistance movements in occupied countries. Inspired by the discussions held in Tokyo at the fifteenth international Red Cross conference in 1934, the protection of civilians is extended to cover air raids on towns and military actions resulting in collateral and non-intentional damage. Common to all four Conventions, article 3 imposes a minimal standard in the humanitarian treatment of non-combatants, including in the event of an insurrection, and prohibits reprisals in the form of hostage-taking, executions, torture, etc. Article 23 of the 4th Convention provides for the free passage of medical goods and supplies required ‘for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases’. Articles 59 and 61 stipulate that an occupying power must agree to rescue operations for civilians in occupied territories. It can only search consignments and control the distribution of supplies, which is entrusted to non-partisan bodies, i.e. the ICRC. However, the deficiencies of the ‘Geneva Law’ remain blatant during the era of decolonization, particularly in the area of national liberation struggles. The 1949 Conventions protect prisoners of war involved in regular armies, not guerrillas. Although liberation movements are not subject to the international obligations imposed on states, the ICRC argues unsuccessfully that they are bound by treaties which they have not signed. In practice, guerrillas will not comply with the Geneva Conventions despite their claims to governmental capacity.

-1950-1985, Korea: while the United States attempt to repel the Chinese troops approaching Seoul, Pyongyang prevents the ICRC from intervening in the Communist North and refuses the assistance of Eastern European Red Cross societies. As a result, the Committee can only work in the Nationalist South to help prisoners of war detained with civilians suspected of Marxist sympathies, including women and children. One of the difficulties is to avoid supervising operations which, by changing the status of prisoners of war, would allow Seoul to grant citizenship to detainees, thereby enabling them to remain in the South instead of being repatriated to the North at the end of the conflict. In addition to issues of malnutrition and police repression, riots in prison camps oppose anti-communists and North-Korean combatants following an attempt to indoctrinate and reclassify 37,000 soldiers viewed by the authorities as South-Korean civilians recruited by force by Pyongyang. On Koje-do Island, where the majority of the prisoners of war held by American forces are jailed, violent incidents in February 1952 result in the death of 69 detainees and one guard. Unrest continues to affect the camps, resulting in further casualties among prisoners. When the commander of Koje-do is briefly taken hostage before being released the following May, the UN suspends all supplies in an attempt to bring the rebels into line and to isolate the trouble-makers. Until the dismantlement of the camp, when detainees are shared out between the South-Korean peninsula and the islands of Pongam-do, Yoncho-do and Cheju-do in July 1952, ICRC delegates are denied access on the grounds that the Blue Helmets are no longer able to ensure their safety. The case of civilian prisoners is no better. Having been granted access by the Ministry of Justice to prisons in Seoul in December 1950, ICRC delegates renounce their right of access in May 1952 on the grounds that the living conditions of detainees have not demonstrably improved. In the North, Pyongyang and Beijing argue that foreign soldiers on Korean territory are war criminals not covered by the Geneva Conventions. The Chinese Red Cross, indentured to the regime, is made to serve as an instrument of propaganda and accuses the United States of using bacteriological weapons. The ICRC is rejected because it agrees to probe the allegations and to set up an inquiry committee only requested by the Western member states of the United Nations Security Council. The target of a virulent campaign in the Communist press, the Committee is suspected of being an imperialist agent in the pay of the American government and of having suggested the idea of an investigation to inform Washington of the efficiency of its bacteriological weapons. Catherine Rey-Schyrr, the official historian of the ICRC, recognizes that the institution ought to have shown a greater willingness to assert its independence from the UN, i.e. the United States, and to publicly condemn all air raids on civilian populations. However, it is unlikely that such measures would have been enough to overcome the mistrust of the communists, who are unwilling to hear of any talk of neutral humanitarians. It is only with the outline of an armistice, eventually signed in July 1953, that Maoist China allows the ICRC to visit detention centers holding American prisoners of war. In exchange, Pyongyang and Beijing are keen to negotiate the repatriation of their soldiers held in the South, who are not always willing to return to the North and are sometimes expelled by force. Some 15,000 Chinese and 8,000 North Koreans who refuse to return home become stateless and are consigned to a camp managed by the Indian Red Cross near Panmunjom. The ICRC recognizes the South Korean and North Korean Red Cross Societies in 1955 and 1956 respectively. Because neither South Korea nor North Korea sign the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the two organizations, which had previously been treated as one entity, are admitted to the Red Cross movement because of the ratification of the 1864 Geneva Convention by Kojong Kwangmuje and his Taehan Empire in 1905. The two societies eventually meet in 1972 to discuss the issue of people separated by the war. The first family reunions occur in September 1985.

-1951-1973: Japan: by virtue of article 16 of the San Francisco peace treaty of 8 September 1951, which provides for the payment of war reparations, the ICRC is entrusted with the responsibility of paying compensation to prisoners of war ill-treated by the Japanese army. The institution is required to manage and redistribute Japanese assets abroad. Between 1959 and 1973, the ICRC also oversees the repatriation of 90,000 North Koreans enlisted by force in the army and the factories of the Empire of the Rising Sun during World War Two. Because of the treatment imposed by the Pyongyang dictatorship on its own citizens, the difficulty is to identify genuine ‘volunteers’ for departure. Despite being an ally of Japan, South Korea attempts to hinder the project, threatening to sink any boat transporting repatriates and escorted by Soviet warships. According to the press in Seoul, especially the Korean Herald of 10 May 1974, the Japanese wives of North Korean men are taken on board by force. Meanwhile, the JCRS (Japanese Red Cross Society) is re-formed in 1946 under the leadership of Prince Tadatsugu Shimazu with the help of a representative of the American Red Cross in Tokyo, Tom Metsker. Ruined by inflation and crippling debts, the organization is not immediately operational. Its hospitals are either destroyed or requisitioned by the occupying authorities, who only agree to restore them in 1956. The basic raison d’être of the JCRS is also undermined since the country no longer has the right to have an army and is prevented from attending international Red Cross conferences until 1950. The JCRS eventually returns to the forefront after Japan ratifies the 1949 Geneva Conventions. A law passed in August 1952 confirms its demilitarization and independence from government. The society returns to its original activities in the area of public health and natural disasters. Completely funded by the government during World War Two, the JCRS seeks to re-establish itself as a private association, eventually numbering some 4 million volunteers by 1977.

-1952, Canada: hosted by the chairman of the CRCS (Canadian Red Cross Society), John Macaulay, the eighteenth international Red Cross conference, attended by delegates from 63 countries and 50 national societies, is held in Toronto in September 1952. Article 6 of the ICRC statutes is revised to introduce a right to humanitarian intervention. The conference was originally due to be held in the United States. However, the American Red Cross was forced to withdraw from fear that the US immigration services would refuse to grant visas to delegates from the communist bloc. The Cold War has such a divisive effect on the movement that the ICRC is forced to shelve the idea of an international Red Cross conference to celebrate its centennial in Geneva eleven years later. In September 1963, it eventually settles for a Council of Delegates meeting, which does not require the attendance of the signatory states of the Geneva Conventions, thereby avoiding a dispute between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

-1953-1967, Kenya: despite growing political troubles in the British colony, the ICRC is not solicited by the Red Cross in London and as a result is slow to intervene after the declaration of a state of emergency at the outbreak of the Mau Mau Uprising in 1952. The institution, which had not provided assistance to any African populations since the Ethiopian war of 1936, had previously limited its involvement in the region to supplying aid to European refugees. For instance, in July 1948, the ICRC had facilitated the repatriation to Tel Aviv of Jews deported to Asmara in Eritrea in February 1945 and to the Gil Gil Camp in Kenya in March 1947 on suspicion of belonging to the Irgun and Stern terrorist groups fighting the British colonial authorities in Palestine. The hesitation of the Committee in dealing with the Mau Mau Uprising, viewed as a tribal insurrection rather than as an internal or international conflict, reflects a more general reluctance to widen its range of activities and to become involved in liberation struggles on a continent about which it knows next to nothing. Put off by the refusal of the British authorities to grant access to the communist prisoners held in Malaysia during the same period, the ICRC decides not to push the issue. After examining the Mau Mau crisis in October 1952, the first appeal to London is made in August 1955, with concrete results in January 1957, i.e. three years before the end of the troubles. According to Nicolas Lanza, the ICRC is keen not to go beyond its mandate to avoid being met with a firm rebuttal by the British authorities. In addition, the Committee is reluctant to support ‘primitive’ populations which, in its own terms, are ‘seemingly resistant to [the notions of] charity and solidarity’. Last but not least, the ICRC faces the hostility of a biased British Red Cross, funded by the colonial government in Kenya. As a result, the head of the Africa section of the Geneva Committee, Pierre Gaillard, exceptionally denounces the blockades imposed by the authorities in an interview given to the Reynolds News Reporter on 16 December 1956. Despite failing to open a delegation in Kenya, the institution is eventually granted access to Mau Mau prisoners on two separate occasions, in February-April 1947 and June-July 1959. However, the visits merely help the British to legitimize their policy of ‘pacification’ in the eyes of the international community. The authorities are careful to conceal the victims of ill-treatment and threaten any prisoners who are tempted to complain with severe reprisals. Written by Reverend Henri Philippe Junod, a priest delegate in South Africa and a personal friend of the Governor of Kenya Evelyn Baring, the first report published by the ICRC absolves the British and is rewritten in Geneva to remove any comments condemning the use of corporal punishment. Subsequently, abuse and ill-treatment are used increasingly to sanction prisoners who had complained to the Geneva delegates. According to Caroline Elkins, Henri Philippe Junod even advises the Governor of Kenya on repression issues. Following a scandal in the British parliament concerning the Hola camp, where eleven prisoners were beaten to death in February 1959, a second visit conducted by the ICRC absolves the authorities yet again. To quote Nicolas Lanza, the Committee’s ‘policy of courteous submission’ ultimately fails to improve the condition of the Mau Mau prisoners. While it is unlikely that a public denunciation would have been significantly more effective, the ICRC decides to withdraw from Kenya after independence. Between 1963 and 1967, Geneva does not intervene in the so-called Shifta war waged by Somali irredentists demanding the incorporation of the Northern Frontier District in a Greater Somalia. Almost no humanitarian organizations are present in the field to provide assistance to the villages protected by the army, the manyatta, where approximately 72,000 inhabitants are concentrated, i.e. almost a fifth of the population affected by the conflict.

-Since 1954, Algeria: following the outbreak of the fight for independence in November 1954 under the aegis of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), the ICRC decides to intervene in a typical war of decolonization. In February 1955, the Committee is given systematic access to French detention camps and interrogation centers. In June 1956, Paris even accepts to treat FLN freedom fighters as prisoners of war. According to directives given by General Raoul Salan in March 1958, the objective is to provide better protection to captured combatants to counter rebel propaganda aimed at pushing guerrillas to their limits by warning them that they will be massacred if they surrender. The position of France toward Algeria is in sharp contrast to other conflicts marking the collapse of the French colonial empire. In neighboring Tunisia in 1954, the authorities prevent the ICRC from providing aid to people detained after unrest in Sfax and Sousse in 1952. The authorities argue that it is an internal matter and claim to be holding just 112 administrative detainees, while the Tunisian branch of the French Red Cross fails to respond to the demands of the Committee in Geneva. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the ICRC is also denied the right to provide assistance to the freedom fighters of the UPC (Union des Populations du Cameroun), who appeal unsuccessfully for rescue aid in 1958. In Algeria, the use of torture disrupts the operations aimed at providing aid to political prisoners of the National Liberation Front. Geneva protests unofficially until 5 January 1960, when a leak results in the publication in Le Monde of a report dated 15 December 1959 describing 82 detention centers. As a result of the scandal, several members of the French government are forced to resign, the army is enjoined to avoid the use of ‘excessive’ interrogation techniques, and the ICRC’s right of access to prisoners is interrupted until January 1961. However, the Committee is able to continue other programs for civilians and it works on the adoption of a new penal code. In Tunisia and Morocco, the institution assists Algerian refugees and secures indemnities for the destruction of some of its trucks and equipment during a bombing of the Tunisian town of Sakiet Sidi Youssef by the French army in February 1958. In Algeria, the aid provided to people displaced by the conflict falls within the jurisdiction of the CRF (Croix-Rouge française), which had intervened in the aftermath of an earthquake in Orléansville in September 1954. By virtue of an agreement reached with the authorities in March 1959, the Committee sends food parcels to French soldiers and distributes supplies to Muslim populations grouped in camps by the army. Following the peace accords signed in Evian on 18 March 1962, the French Red Cross helps ‘Pieds Noirs’ settlers to leave the country and to immigrate to Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Bordeaux. Under the aegis of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the LCRS and other national Red Cross societies support the repatriation of Algerians who had fled to Morocco and Tunisia. However, the ICRC is unable to assist the ‘Harki’ auxiliaries of the French army, who are subject to retaliation since the FLN gained power in Algiers. For the entire duration of the war, the freedom fighters had steadfastly refused to grant access to their detainees. The only known exception, in January 1958, had merely served to demonstrate the capacity of the FLN to keep prisoners within Algeria rather than in its rear bases in Tunisia, where the French army was bombarding refugee camps. In all other cases, the freedom fighters failed to comply with the Geneva Conventions, executing three government soldiers held captive in May 1958. Through the medium of the Algerian Red Crescent and its chairman Ben Nahmed in Tunis and Rabat, the ICRC was forced to attract media attention and to negotiate on a case by case basis to secure the release of a small number of French prisoners held by the FLN, including Yvonne Genestoux, a nurse captured in December 1958. In July 1962, independence fails to remove obstacles that impede humanitarian operations. On this occasion, the problem comes from the new Algerian government – unlike in Tunisia, during the battle of Bizerte in July 1961, where the Geneva Committee was given access to war prisoners on both sides before overseeing their exchange in the no man’s land of Menzel Jemil the following September. Despite being mandated by the Evian Accords to locate and repatriate prisoners of war, the ICRC continues to face the ill will of the Algerian Red Crescent, which it officially recognizes in July 1963, and the FLN, which it publicly criticizes. By virtue of an agreement reached with the new government in February 1963, the Committee is only allowed to search for people who went missing during the war and to assist the Harkis detained in civilian prisons, but not in military camps. The ICRC withdraws seven months later. Except for visiting three barracks emptied of Harkis in January 1964, the Committee is no longer able to access any detention centers and is powerless in the face of the increasing intransigence of the revolutionary and socialist military regime introduced the following year. Created in late 1956 in Tangiers and chaired initially by Omar Boukli Hacène, the Algerian Red Crescent is of little assistance, merely serving as an instrument of the single-party state, particularly under the chairmanship of Dr. Mouloud Belaouane between 1969 and 1989. It is not until December 1991, after the cancellation of the elections and an Islamist insurrection, that Geneva is authorized to provide assistance to political prisoners as part of a state of emergency declared in February 1992, though only for a period of five months. The visits resume in October 1999, though access is denied to all other categories of detainees. According to Christian Toubé, the Algerian Red Crescent expels in 1989 the country representative of Médecins du Monde, Joseph Dato, for denouncing the government’s ill-treatment of illegal African immigrants left in the desert. The prisoners of war of the Polisario Front, supported by Algiers since 1975 in their fight for the independence of Western Sahara against the Moroccan occupying forces, remain inaccessible for almost twenty years. After a firm refusal during a mission in Tindouf refugee camps in 1978, the ICRC is forced to wait until a ceasefire in 1991 to secure the right to assist detainees held by the guerrilla. Geneva is eventually able to run a program of repatriation of Moroccan prisoners of war between 2000 and 2005.

-1955-1977, Cyprus: circumventing the British colonial authorities, the ICRC decides to intervene directly in Nicosia to visit and assist political detainees in December 1955, in March, August and November 1957, and again in December 1958. The Committee is allowed to conduct interviews with opponents before their trial in the central prison of Nicosia, as well as in camps in Kokkinotrimithia, Hayos Lucas, Mammari, Pyla and Dhekelia. However, the ICRC is denied access to police jails and is forced to suspend all visits in February 1959 during negotiations over independence, declared in August 1960. Under the aegis of its new delegate, Jacques Ruff, the ICRC subsequently continues its activities amid clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities. Accused of bias and spying, the British Red Cross is unable to deliver rescue supplies. Chaired by Minister of Justice Stella Soulioti, its Cypriot counterpart also struggles to provide assistance to victims since the Greeks are keen to enforce an embargo aimed at reducing the Turks’ military capabilities. Consequently, the Geneva Committee is alone in helping the Cypriot Turks who lost their jobs as a result of the de facto partition of the island. The ICRC, whose envoy Jean-Pierre Schoenholzer dies of a heart attack in 1964, is able to negotiate supervised distributions of supplies by the United Nations and the unloading of two cargo ships sent by the Turkish Red Crescent in 1965. But the institution is soon forced to make payments in cash because of restrictions on imports. The Greek Cypriot authorities argue that such a humanitarian aid funds their enemies, who stock supplies and penalize the economy by refusing to buy local production. As explained by Françoise Perret and François Bugnion, the problem is that the distinction between civilians and combatants in the Turkish zone is difficult to draw. After closing its delegation and handing over its activities to the United Nations in November 1965, the ICRC returns to Cyprus following the invasion of the northern part of the island by Ankara troops in July 1974. The following month, the Committee establishes a neutral zone in Nicosia and distributes supplies to displaced people, especially Turkish Cypriots seeking refuge in the British base of Episkopi near Limassol. Opened in July 1974, the ICRC delegation also visits prisoners of war on both sides before its closure in June 1977. Because of the partition of the country, Geneva no longer recognizes the Cypriot Red Cross, now divided between two separate organizations in the North and in the South.

-1956-1957, Hungary: while opponents to Soviet rule bring Imre Nagy to power, the ICRC organizes one of its largest humanitarian operations of the postwar period and the most important operation in a communist country before Vietnam in 1975, Cambodia in 1979 and Ethiopia in 1984. In October 1956, Geneva initially attempts to set up an airlift from Vienna, Austria, but is forced to abandon the project within a matter of days. Consequently, the institution has to send relief by land and water and agrees to transport United Nations supplies on the condition that the neutrality of the Committee is not compromised. In Hungary, ICRC envoys prevent executions of members of the political police by rebels, for example in Sopron and Györ, where the president of the Patriotic People’s Front, Attila Szigethy, makes a commitment to delegate Herbert-Georges Beckh to comply with the Geneva Conventions. However, the efforts of the Committee are soon undermined by the Red Army following the Soviet invasion of Budapest in early November. The communists impose high taxes on goods sent from the Austrian border and prevent the ICRC from importing relief by road after March 1957. Since it is unable to transport supplies by waterways because the Danube is frozen, the Committee is forced to resort to trains and refuses the offer of armed escorts by the authorities. Installed by Moscow, János Kádár’s government puts an end to the operations and continues to deny access to prisoners of conscience. It is not until October 1965, two years after an amnesty was granted to the insurgents, that an ICRC delegate is allowed to inspect a prison, Thökol, and to conduct supervised interviews with two political prisoners not detained in connection with the events of October 1956. Meanwhile, the Committee continues to assist refugees fleeing the repression, while the LCRS coordinates the activities of various Red Cross societies. By virtue of an agreement signed on 2 November 1956 and amended on 17 November, the League receives the shipments of national societies in Vienna while the ICRC transports the goods to Hungary or distributes them to asylum seekers. Reformed under the aegis of Doctor Adolf Pilz in 1945 and under the chairmanship of Karl Seitz from 1946, followed by Professor Burghard Breitner in 1950, the Austrian Red Cross (Osterreichisches Rotes Kreuz) is naturally at the forefront of the operations in the refugee camps of Vienna and Ried in Innkeis. Yet other societies also help Hungarian migrants who seek asylum in Western Europe, for instance France. In Switzerland, 7,000 of them are provided accommodation in local Red Cross centers, while a further 4,000 are housed in Swiss army barracks. The question of family reunification soon turns into a political issue. János Kádár’s government rejects the principle of reciprocity and seeks to repatriate all underage refugees without allowing parents to join their children on the other side of the border. According to a report published in the Geneva newspaper Le Temps on 18 August 2005, the ICRC opposes the forced return of unaccompanied minors, especially those involved in the uprising, who sometimes face prison or even a death sentence. The Committee therefore refuses to provide the authorities in Budapest with a list of all minors seeking refuge in Austria. As a result of failing to reach an agreement with the Hungarian Red Cross (comprehensively purged by the communists), the ICRC abandons the matter. Of the 200,000 refugees who migrated in 1956, only 45,000 return to Hungary within eight years. As explained by Isabelle Vonèche Cardia, the results are distinctly mixed, in spite (or because) of the hostility of the Soviet Union toward Geneva. Moscow only allowed the ICRC to intervene because the Hungarian regime needed the material support of the West. To avoid compromising the distribution of supplies, the Committee opted not to insist on access to political prisoners. The ICRC continued to handle the authorities with care in order to maintain good relations and to preserve the right to intervene in the communist sphere in the event of another crisis. As a result, the Committee paid little attention to the fate of the humanitarian staff of its partner in the field, the Hungarian Red Cross. Under Zoltán Zsebök, an official newly appointed by the government of Imre Nagy, the national society had little time to organize itself. Following the accession to power of János Kádár, it was led by a political commissar, Dr. György Killner, and chaired by a college of five doctors all relieved of their duties in May 1957 and replaced by an ambassador, Joseph Kárpáti, and a professor, Pal Gegesi Kiss. Accused of backing the counter-revolutionaries, of receiving ICRC funds and of encouraging strikers to extend their movement by appealing for Western support, some of the staff were jailed or placed under house arrest, while local first-aid workers were tortured for providing care to the insurgents, ‘misappropriating’ relief supplies and helping Hungarian nationals to escape.

-Since 1957, India: for the first time in its history, the nineteenth International Red Cross conference is chaired in New Delhi by a woman, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, in late October 1957. Reiterating an appeal made by the ICRC on 5 April 1950, delegates from 83 countries seek to prohibit the use of nuclear, bacteriological and chemical weapons because of their uncontrolled effects on civilian populations. However, the project fails because of the opposition of nuclear states, not least Western powers, which had already rejected a similar proposal by the USSR in July 1945 when Moscow had yet to acquire the atomic bomb. The broader context of the Cold War is not conducive to dialogue. Following a diplomatic incident between the governments of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China, delegates begin to reconsider the idea of holding international Red Cross conferences with state representatives. They also reject an invitation by the USSR to hold their next meeting in Moscow in 1960. The Soviet authorities interpret the attitude of the ICRC as further evidence of its allegiance to the West. Chaired from 1950 until her death in 1964 by Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the IRCS (Indian Red Cross Society) proposes a third non-aligned way. Initially established by the British colonial authorities in 1920 and chaired by a governor of Punjab, William Malcolm Hailey, the organization was able to release itself from British supervision at the time of independence in 1947. However, it was unable to resist the partition of the Indian Empire, when the ICRC provided assistance to refugees on both sides before an agreement to protect minorities was reached by the Indian and Pakistani governments on 8 April 1950. On the border, Kashmir was a major hotspot, and the Committee was unable to prevent an Indian aerial raid on two hospitals of the Pakistani Red Cross in Kotli and Bagh, where patients were killed in October 1948. When the conflict resumes in 1965, the institution returns to visit prisoners of war and political detainees. On this occasion, it assists displaced people in the regions of Sialkot, Sheikhupura and Lahore on the Pakistani side and in the provinces of Jammu, Punjab and Rajasthan on the Indian side. It also facilitates the provision of aid to approximately 100,000 Muslim refugees crossing the ceasefire line to seek refuge in the area of Kashmir under Pakistani control. While it is able to organize an exchange of over 100 prisoners of war on both sides in Hussainiwala in 1966, the ICRC subsequently faces significant restrictions imposed by the Indian authorities and is denied access. After several decades of fruitless negotiations, the Committee finally secures the right to provide relief supplies to the victims of the Kashmir conflict in 1994. By virtue of an agreement reached in 1995, Geneva is allowed to visit the prisons of Jammu but fails to gain access to other states within the federation. The Indian Red Cross is more heavily involved in natural disasters, through not without incurring significant risks: on 12 May 2001, three of its volunteers, Rugnesh Uttakumar Geewala, Anand Shukla and Kalpesh Patel, are killed in a traffic collision while attempting to distribute relief supplies to victims of an earthquake in the province of Kutch in the state of Gujarat.

-Since 1958, Cuba: during a truce on 23 and 24 July 1958, Fidel Castro allows ICRC doctors to access the Sierra Maestra and to travel to Las Vegas de Jibacoa to release injured soldiers captured by his guerrillas. Other evacuations are organized on 12 and 13 August. After coming to power in Havana on 12 January 1959, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary and socialist government agrees to allow the ICRC to visit political prisoners and holds press conferences to present the findings of the Committee delegates. However, the new regime takes over the Cuban Red Cross, founded in 1909 by Dr. Diego Tamayo y Figueredo and chaired throughout the 1960s by a student in medicine turned guerrilla commander, Gilberto Cervantes Nuñez. As for the Geneva Committee, its members make no attempt to hide their distrust of the communists, and as a result the organization is soon prevented from accessing political prisoners. Tensions run high after an attempted landing by American mercenaries in the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. At the time of the missile crisis in October 1962, the ICRC is solicited by Moscow and Washington to inspect Soviet ships suspected by the United States of transporting nuclear warheads to Cuba. Blocked by the government in Havana, the project does not aim at checking potential missiles already installed in the island and is not followed up since the USSR eventually abandons the idea of sending other ships. The Geneva Committee is nevertheless heavily criticized by the Swiss Foreign Minister Friedrich Traugott Wahlen and the liberal democrat MP Willy Bretscher who, in an editorial published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, opposes the extension of the organization’s mandate into political activities that could potentially compromise its neutrality. The position of the institution also provokes a heated response within the movement itself, causing a number of resignations among volunteers working for the French, Swedish, Dutch and Swiss Red Crosses. The project was deemed to be particularly dangerous since, according to the historian Thomas Fischer, it was on its own initiative that the Geneva Committee offered its services to the United Nations in New York. However, the institution was supported by the chair of the French Red Cross, André François-Poncet, and by his counterparts in Eastern Europe, who were keen to attract the ICRC to the politics of pacifist communist pressure groups. The Committee argued that its initiative was a response to an exceptional situation since international humanitarian law would have been made null and void in the event of a nuclear war. The purpose of the project was also to break a blockade to enable supplies to reach Cuba. Finally, the ICRC was able to use the missile crisis as an opportunity to seek a rapprochement with the USSR, which, for the first time in its history, recognized the value of an institution that it had repeatedly tried to suppress since the end of World War Two.

-From 1959, Zimbabwe: in a country known at the time as Southern Rhodesia, the British colonial authorities allow the ICRC to conduct interviews with suspects arrested by virtue of a state of emergency in 1959, most notably in the prisons of Salisbury, Hwa-Hwa and Enslinsdeel, then Chikurubi. However, until 1974, the humanitarian institution is prevented from visiting individuals charged with crimes against state security. As a result, the Committee cannot assist detainees undergoing interrogations or trials. The situation differs significantly from the restrictions imposed in South Africa, where the ICRC only has access to convicted political prisoners, and Portuguese Africa, where the institution is allowed to visit all individuals held by the Directorate-General for Security, irrespective of their legal status. Condemned by the international community, the unilateral declaration of independence of Rhodesia in 1965 then forces Geneva to deal with Ian Smith’s racist government. While the ICRC refuses to recognize the local Red Cross, it can no longer send its prison reports to the British Red Cross Society and the former colonial authorities. The situation also deteriorates because of the growing conflict between the white minority government and the black liberation movements, with both sides violating the Geneva Conventions. For example, guerrilla fighters of the Patriotic Front kill villagers, execute unarmed soldiers, use civilians as hostages, shoot down civilian airplanes and forbid access to prisoners. The authorities prevent supplies from reaching rebel-held areas, apply the death penalty to political opponents and attack defenseless peasants. The issue is that the ICRC unwittingly serves the government’s military interests by providing relief supplies to 80 of the 270 ‘protected villages’ where displaced populations have been gathered by the army to empty rural areas and isolate the guerrilla forces. The neutrality of the Committee is thus compromised. Despite bearing the Red Cross emblem, a local employee, Charles Chatora, and two ICRC delegates, Andre Tièche and Alain Bieri, are killed on 18 May 1978 in an ambush while driving to a clinic in Nyamaropa in the Nyanga district near the Mozambican border. The three men are presumed to be the victims of rebels who assumed they were collaborating with the Whites. The ICRC staff decides as a result to travel by air rather than by road, thereby reducing its potential for action. In addition, the Committee also refocuses its relief operations and works with the LWF (Lutheran World Federation) to assist refugees in the strongholds of the two main liberation movements: ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union) in Doroi in Mozambique, and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) in Francistown, Selebi-Phikwe and Dukwe in Botswana, and in Solwezi and the camps of Freedom, Moyo, Victory and Nampundwe (Shilenda) around Lusaka in Zambia. Once again the ICRC plays an ambivalent role. For example, in the Mozambican hospitals of Chimoio, Tete and Songo, the Committee provides care to injured combatants of ZANU, which comes to power when Zimbabwe secures independence in 1980.

-Since 1960, Congo-Kinshasa: the ICRC sends relief supplies to victims of the troubles that erupt in the aftermath of the declaration of independence of the former Belgian colony. Dispatched by the Norwegian Red Cross, a first medical team lands in Leopoldville (Kinshasa) on 25 July 1960. Others follow in their wake, travelling deeper into the country, particularly in the Kasai region. The conflict takes a new turn in August 1960 when Blue Helmets are sent to suppress the Katanga secession. ICRC teams are transported in United Nations vehicles and planes. Between September 1960 and June 1961, the Committee is allocated a DC-3 belonging to the WHO (World Health Organization). However, the peace operations conducted by the international community fail to put an end to the conflict. An ICRC delegate, Georges Olivet, and two Belgian and Dutch ambulance drivers of the Katanga Red Cross, Styts Smeding and Nicole Vroonen, are killed in Elisabethville on 13 December 1961, almost certainly shot at point blank range by the UN Ethiopian contingent. Refusing to recognize its direct involvement in the tragedy, the United Nations Organization agrees to pay compensation to the families of the victims on 19 October 1962. Meanwhile, the Geneva Committee supervises prisoner exchanges between Blue Helmets and Katanga secessionists on 28 December 1961 and 15 January 1962. While it is unable to gain access to all political and military detainees, one of its envoys, Laurent Marti, provides relief supplies in Albertville and secures the release of fifteen Europeans evacuated to Bujumbura, Burundi, in July 1964, from a rebel chief, Gaston-Emile Soumialot. The following September, the same delegate is allowed to send medicine to Stanleyville, where a short-lived people’s republic has been declared by Christophe Gbenye. Laurent Marti is less successful in Buta near the Central African Republic border in March 1965, where fifty-three Europeans are executed by rebels led by Colonel Augustin Makombo after a raped hostage escaped with the help of the ICRC. In October and November 1967, the Geneva Committee attempts to evacuate European mercenaries and their Katangese allies entrenched in Bukavu near Rwanda. However, the operation is delayed as a result of the reluctance of Raymond Gafner, the head of the ICRC mission and a former military officer who, unlike Laurent Marti, is keen to secure the area and insists on waiting (in vain) for the troops of a Pan-African intervention force. The national army of General Joseph Désiré-Mobutu, in power in Kinshasa, seizes the opportunity to attack and bomb the town of Bukavu, causing the death of seventeen injured patients in a hospital. From neighboring Rwanda, the ICRC eventually evacuates the European mercenaries and their families in planes dispatched by the Securitas private security company in April 1968, while Katangese gendarmes are repatriated to their country. The violence continues nevertheless. On 11 May 1978, another delegate, Frédéric Steinemann, is dispatched from Zambia to prevent a famine in the Shaba province after the occupation and plundering of Kolwezi by the guerrilla fighters of the Congolese National Liberation Front. Refusing to purchase supplies at exorbitant prices on the black market, the ICRC envoy is unwilling to wait any longer for the relief supplies promised by Geneva and decides to hire a train to send free food provided by Gécamines, a large mining company in Lubumbashi, serving as a scout to ensure that the tracks are not mined. Following the collapse of the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, the ICRC is finally able to provide assistance to Rwandan refugees – including those who took part in the genocide of April-June 1994. However, working conditions remain difficult and, on 14 December 1994, Geneva appeals to the international community to intervene in the African Great Lakes region. On 6 November 1995, the Committee decides to suspend its operations in Masisi when one of its convoys transporting displaced people is redirected toward Goma by the Zairian army. Following the uprising of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo-Zaïre), which results in the fall of Mobuto Sese Seko, the ICRC is also forced to end its operations in Kivu, where five volunteers of the local Red Cross are killed in October 1996. No region is thus immune from fighting and crime. While Committee vehicles and offices are regularly stolen, looted and burgled in Uvira and Bukavu, a driver, Sylvain Mutombo, is killed in Kinshasa by armed men who steal his car on 12 January 1998. The frontier district of Ituri, where the ICRC opens an office in Bunia in April 1998, represents one of the most dangerous areas for humanitarian workers. According to Johan Pottier, the lack of transparency of the Committee is partly to blame since it exacerbates the mistrust of the militias, who kill three local collaborators (Véronique Saro, Aduwe Boboli and Jean Molokabonge), a Swiss nurse (Rita Fox-Stucki), a Colombian delegate (Julio Delgado) and a Congolese employee (Unen Unfoirworth) of the Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC on 26 April 2001 while travelling on a road between Djugu and Fataki north of Bunia. Having received no explanations from Kampala, whose army controlled the area, the Committee decides to withdraw from Uganda. In Ituri, tensions remain high, and the local Red Cross loses two employees during combats in Bunia on 11 May 2003.

-Since 1961, Indonesia: the ICRC, which had facilitated the evacuation of Dutch settlers from Java during the war of independence in 1946-1948, represents the interests of the Netherlands after the breakdown of diplomatic relations between The Hague and Djakarta over the annexation of Western New Guinea, known today as Irian Jaya, in August 1960. Between September 1961 and May 1962, the Geneva Committee serves as a consulate working on behalf of the former Dutch colonial authorities, which entrust the humanitarian institution with the responsibility of paying grants and facilitating the repatriation of their last remaining nationals in the country. In the 1990s, the ICRC will also perform a similar role in providing travel documents to East Timorese people wishing to travel to Portugal, which has no diplomatic representation in Djakarta. In the meantime, Geneva encounters significant difficulties in seeking to assist the victims of various political troubles after the declaration of independence of Indonesia. For example, during the secession of the short-lived Republic of South Maluku on Ambon Island in April 1950, the ICRC had already failed to secure the right to transport supplies to rebel areas and to break the blockade imposed by Djakarta troops before the defeat of the insurgents and the suspension of military operations. The Committee is also unable to provide assistance to the victims of anticommunist and anti-Chinese repression, resulting in half a million deaths from January 1965. The dictatorship of General Mohammed Suharto, in power since March 1967, only allows Geneva to distribute relief supplies to 50,000 displaced people of Chinese origins fleeing the unrest in Pontianak and Singkawang in the Kalimantan region on the western coast of the Island of Borneo. The authorities are careful to evacuate and to conceal their political prisoners before the arrival of ICRC delegates, who are required to give advance warning of their inspections. The Committee protests publicly in 1977 against the ban on visiting the penitential colony of Buru Island, accessed in 1971 and where 14,000 prisoners suspected of communist sympathies are detained. The situation improves significantly in the following decade. From October 1979, along with the Americans of the CRS (Catholic Relief Service), the ICRC is one of a small number of humanitarian organizations to be granted access to East Timor, a former Portuguese colony invaded by the Indonesian army in December 1975. However, working conditions remain difficult. In the absence of roads, Geneva is forced to distribute relief supplies by air, suffering two fatalities in the process: a pilot, Ashoka Lolong, and a doctor from the Indonesian Red Cross, Bagus Rudiono, in a helicopter crash near Dili on 2 April 1983. The fighting between the Djakarta troops and the FRETILIN rebels (Frente Revolucionário de Timor-Leste Independente) also prevents the Committee from accessing many areas and forces the ICRC to restrict its assistance to 2,000 displaced persons on Atauro Island before returning to the hinterland. Prison visits in Atauro, Con (Los Palos) and the prison of Comarca in Dili remain dependent on the good will of the Indonesian authorities, which decide to suspend all operations between July 1983 and April 1985. It is not until the riots of Dili in November 1991 that Geneva is able to conduct interviews with political prisoners, in particular with the leader of FRETILIN, Xanana Gusmão. The Committee intervenes more widely in the troubles of September 1999 that result in the independence of East Timor. Seen as supporting the secession, the ICRC delegation in Dili is attacked by pro-Indonesian militias and is forced to close its offices for two weeks. The institution is subsequently forced to withdraw from the Western and Indonesian part of the island, where it was seeking to facilitate the repatriation of roughly 100,000 people and where three expatriates of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees are assassinated by Djakarta partisans on 6 September 2000. Undeterred, the Committee becomes involved in other secessionist conflicts affecting the rest of the archipelago. As the only humanitarian organization to be given access to the Irian Jaya province, the ICRC opens a delegation in Jayapura in September 1989 and begins to visit prisoners of conscience in January 1991 before experiencing a new lease of life as a result of the unilateral declaration of independence by the Congress of the Papuan People in June 2000. From December 1991, the ICRC is also granted permission to assist political prisoners in Aceh. However, a new wave of fighting with the Aceh freedom fighters of the GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) significantly limits the potential for humanitarian deployment, both because of the prevailing insecurity and because of the restrictions imposed by the army. The ICRC seeks to operate via the Indonesian Red Cross, one of whose employees, Jafar Syedho, is tortured and killed by rebels in the village of Glumpang Payong near Jeumpa in the Bireuen district on 3 October 2001. As a result of the introduction of martial law in May 2003 for the duration of a year, the offices of the Committee are closed temporarily between August and December. If the institution facilitates the release of over 100 prisoners held by the GAM after May 2004, the Tsunami of December 2004 is the key event that enables the ICRC to conduct a full deployment. While Geneva distributes relief supplies to victims in the north-eastern part of Aceh, where the freedom fighters are based, the International Federation of the Red Cross is in charge of the western coast, where one volunteer from Hong-Kong, Eva Yeung, is shot and injured in Lamno in Leupung district on 22 June 2005.

-Since 1962, Yemen: in the north of the country, where monarchists supported by Saudi Arabia are waging war on republicans funded by the government of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, the Red Cross movement is non-existent and the ICRC begins to conduct operations in difficult conditions requiring the use of radios to communicate with Geneva for the first time in its history. Initially, the intervention is primarily medical and involves dispatching volunteers such as Max Récamier in 1964 and Pascal Grellety-Bosviel in 1968, two of the twelve founders of MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) in 1971. The ICRC staff initially focus on a field hospital transported by an American military plane and set up in Uqd near the Saudi border in an area secured by a UN observation mission until 1964. Led by an enterprising delegate, André Rochat, the Committee struggles to persuade the combatants to lay down their arms before receiving medical care, and the itinerant doctors operating outside hospitals are regularly threatened by Bedouins who demand priority treatment. The treatment of women, who refuse to be undressed, involves a complex examination process since injections need to be performed through clothes. According to a documentary by Frédéric Gonseth entitled La Citadelle Humanitaire and broadcast on Arte on 29 September 2010, the republicans complain that the ICRC works exclusively with royalists because of a lack of funds needed to open a second hospital. To rebalance its position, Geneva distributes milk to children in Sana’a and emphasizes the provision of care to Egyptian prisoners of war detained by Imam Muhammad Al-Badr. After the withdrawal of the troops of Gamal Abdel Nasser following the Six Day War with Israel in June 1967, the Committee continues to encounter the hostility of the republican general Hassan Amri, now in power. The prevailing insecurity significantly limits the potential for action, forcing the ICRC to recruit armed guards. In May 1967, a convoy of the organization bearing the Red Cross emblem is deliberately attacked and destroyed by the Egyptian Air Force in the Wadi Herran valley. Delegate Laurent Vust is the only survivor of a plane crash in June 1967, while Doctor Frederic de Bros is shot in an ambush by Bedouins in the Jauf desert the following August. Established in Jihanah in January 1968, a health post is bombed two months later during an attack that causes the destruction of key facilities and seriously injures the two Yemenites guarding the site. Geneva abandons the position in January 1969, and its teams withdraw to Saudi Arabia under armed escort. Attempts to provide assistance to prisoners are also impeded by a number of obstacles. In the pro-monarchy camp led by Imam Mohammed el-Badr, the life of detainees is negotiated in exchange for gold coins. Pressed by the Committee, the jailers remove the chains of captives, but lock the cell doors, which had previously been left open to enable prisoners to walk in chains in the streets. The republican camp does not comply with humanitarian law either. In press statements issued on 31 January and 2 June 1967, the ICRC publicly denounces the use of gas bombs witnessed – and subsequently proven – by its delegates in the field. While Geneva abstains from blaming the attacks on any particular party, the responsibility of Cairo appears to be beyond doubt since only the republican camp has an air force. On 28 July 1967, an article published in the New York Times assigns the responsibility of the crime to the Egyptians, seemingly on the basis of a confidential report written by the ICRC. As the fighting continues, Geneva reduces its activities to intervene in other conflicts, such as the Biafra War in Nigeria. In February 1970, the ICRC abandons the idea of sending a surgical team to the extreme north and relocates until August to Khamer near Sana’a in premises that had never been used since being built three years earlier. The demand for aid remains significant in Southern Yemen, which secured independence in November 1967. On his own initiative, André Rochat had already successfully negotiated to gain access to prisoners held by the British colonial authorities. He was subsequently able to organize the evacuation of the last remaining republican pro-Egypt soldiers to Cairo. However, Aden soon begins to voice border claims over the North. The ICRC gains access to soldiers caught on both sides during combats between the two countries in September 1972. In March 1973, the institution begins to distribute supplies to refugees fleeing the South, now a people’s democratic republic affiliated to the Soviet camp. In March 1979, Geneva assists the victims of border skirmishes between the two countries. Leaving the North, where a Yemenite Red Crescent was founded on 4 July 1970, the ICRC refocuses its activities on the South. In Aden, where it had secured the right to assist prisoners held by the British colonial authorities, the Committee visits the fortress of Mansura in October 1968, April 1969, January, June and October 1970, and in September 1971. In January 1971, while it is still unable to conduct unsupervised interviews with prisoners, the humanitarian institution organizes an exchange of prisoners of war caught during border skirmishes between Southern Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the Hadhramaut in November 1969. The medical component of the operations conducted by the ICRC develops with the support of doctors and surgeons provided by Eastern European Red Cross societies. In 1969, the Committee establishes a team in Mukalla to provide medical care to the populations of the Hadhramaut. The situation subsequently becomes more stable. As a result, the ICRC closes its delegation in Aden in 1974. The Committee briefly returns to the town in January 1986 to visit prisoners, provide medical care and distribute food aid during infighting between two rival factions of the socialist party in power. Between May and July 1994, the ICRC intervenes once again in Aden during a civil war opposing Northern and Southern Yemen over their forced merger in May 1990.

-1963, Norway: on the occasion of its centennial, the ICRC is awarded its third Nobel Peace Prize alongside the League of Red Cross Societies (LRCS). The initiative is the result of a Norwegian survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, Anders Daae, whose father had already been charged by Henry Dunant to accept the 1901 Nobel Peace Prize on his behalf. To avoid rekindling pointless quarrels, the ICRC had requested that the LRCS should also be rewarded. Some argued that the League had made a greater contribution to peace since the Committee was designed fundamentally to work in times of war despite its preventive role at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The Nobel Peace Prize sanctions the development of an organization which, long dominated and run by the Americans, has undergone significant changes since the chair of the Swedish Red Cross, Emil Sandström, was appointed at the head of the League in 1950 and turned it into a Federation in 1952. Following the accession to independence of Third-World countries, an unwritten rule soon emerged that the chairmanship of the IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), which has a purely honorary status, should represent the diversity of the movement. In chronological order of their election, the various presidents are: John Macaulay of Canada (1959), José Barroso Chavez of Mexico (1965), Joseph Adetunji Adefarasin of Nigeria (1977), Enrique de la Mata of Spain (1981), Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander of Venezuela (1987), Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg of Norway (1997), and Juan Manuel Suárez Del Toro Rivero of Spain (2001). The vice-presidency of the IFRC is generally held by the president of the Swiss Red Cross. The position of secretary general, who has decision-making powers, has traditionally been held by a Westerner: William Rappard of Switzerland in 1919, René Sand of Belgium in 1921, Tracey Kittredge in 1927, Ernest Bicknell in 1930 and Ernest Swift in 1931 (all of the United States), Bonabès de Rougé of France in 1936, Henry Dunning of the United States in 1957, Henrik Beer of Sweden in 1960, Hans Høegh of Norway in 1982, Pär Stenbäck of Finland in 1988, George Weber of Canada in 1993, Didier Cherpitel of France in 2000 and Markku Niskala of Finland in 2003. The appointment of the secretary general is the result of highly political negotiations. A former Minister of Education and Minister of Foreign Relations in Finland, Pär Stenbäck was chosen on the grounds that his country was conveniently located between Western and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. His successor, George Weber, was nominated because he was from Quebec and spoke both French and English. Ultimately, the democratization and internationalization of the IFRC mainly affects its central body, the council of governors, replaced in 1976 by an assembly of delegates with a renewable mandate every two years to inject new blood into a body too often made up of elderly individuals remote from the concerns of their national society. Created in 1919 at the instigation of Henry Davison, who was keen to appoint another American (the Secretary of Interior Franklin Lane), the position of Director-General of the LRCS was suppressed in 1927 after having been held by the British military attaché in France, General David Henderson, succeeded after his death in 1921 by the British president of the Indian Red Cross, Claude Hill, and in 1926 by a US army officer, Ernest Bicknell.

-From 1964, Vietnam: the ICRC extends its operations when the United States dispatch troops to the South in support of the Saigon regime, threatened by the attacks of Viet Cong guerrilla fighters and the incursions of the communists in power in Hanoi in the North. Since 1961, the Geneva Committee had been able to transfer North Vietnamese nationals via Thailand and to repatriate American and South Vietnamese citizens held by the Chinese on the Paracel Islands. However, the escalation of fighting significantly restricted the potential for action. Despite recognizing the Red Cross societies of South then North Vietnam in 1957, the ICRC is not permitted to intervene in Hanoi and is limited to working with the authorities in Saigon. On the communist side, the regime of Ho Chi Minh, which signed up to the Geneva Conventions in 1957, considers its American prisoners as war criminals, arguing that the conflict is an internal problem since the 1954 peace agreements make no provision for the formation of two Vietnamese states. By contrast, the Americans defend the territorial integrity of South Vietnam, denounce the violation of an international border by the North, and treat captured combatants as prisoners of war. The Saigon government, which signed up to the Geneva Conventions in 1953, adopts a similar attitude toward the irregular fighters of the Viet Cong, who account for three quarters of the 40,000 detainees caught in possession of a weapon. The main problem concerns civilians suspected of communist sympathies, who are subject to arbitrary administrative measures and ill treatment in prison. Having been denied access in 1965, the ICRC is largely unable to assist them and to conduct systematic inspections. An agreement negotiated in 1969 compels the Committee to give the authorities one month’s notice and prevents it from conducting unsupervised interviews with prisoners. As a result, Geneva is caught in a scandal when the government quotes an ICRC report describing the conditions of detention as ‘good’ despite the use of ‘tiger cages’ uncovered by US congressmen in the infamous Con Son prison. In the International Herald Tribune of 10 and 15 July 1970, the Committee is forced to issue a formal denial and to re-emphasize that it only has access to military prisoners, not civilians. Concerned that it may be hijacked by the propaganda of the regime, the humanitarian institution decides to go along with the opinion of its delegation in Saigon and to suspend all visits to administrative detainees in late March 1972. However, the ICRC continues to assist civilian victims in urban and rural areas. For instance, it is invited to negotiate with the North over the establishment and neutralization of sanctuaries in the South, a proposal already made by Geneva in 1966 during discrete protests against American bombings. The project is subsequently abandoned following the peace agreements signed in Paris in 1973, when the League of Red Cross Societies begins to take over in the field. The results of the Committee’s operations are somewhat mixed, as noted by Marcel Naville’s adviser Michel Barde, who left the institution in 1975 to publish a critical memoir on ‘The Red Cross and the Indochinese Revolution’. While a small number of prisoner exchanges were conducted, including detainees from Phu Quoc camp sent to Hanoi in 1971, Geneva was not involved in the release of nine American pilots by the communists, largely for propaganda reasons during the war. Besides its failure to protect administrative detainees in the South, the ICRC was never able to intervene directly in the North. In January 1966, the Viet Cong of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) refused its supplies, arguing that it had not requested them. The Committee was only able to fund hospitals in Hanoi after 1965 through the medium of the Soviet and North Vietnamese Red Crosses, though without the right to monitor the effective use of its funds. With the Paris peace agreements of 1973, the ICRC is not invited either to supervise the repatriation of some 500 American soldiers from North Vietnam. After the communist victory in Saigon in April 1975, the institution is also prevented from entering reeducation camps and is only able to gain access to a small number of Chinese prisoners of war caught during a border conflict with Beijing in February 1979. Similarly, the Committee is unable to facilitate the return of refugees and the resettlement of people displaced by the conflict. Closed in September 1976 and transferred to Hanoi, the new capital of united Vietnam, the ICRC delegation in Saigon is prevented from distributing relief supplies, officially for security reasons. With no access to political prisoners, the Committee eventually decides to relocate its regional office from Hanoi to Bangkok in March 1993. As noted by Richard Falk et al., Geneva was perceived as being guilty of bias by the communists for the entire duration of the conflict. Focusing mostly on combatants, the Committee had for instance remained silent about the massacres of civilians in the South, especially in My Lai, but had opposed the trials of American pilots captured and treated as war criminals by the North conducted in 1966. Hanoi vehemently criticized the ICRC for failing to condemn the American bombings, which had affected hospitals, and for protesting against all parties in an appeal dated 29 December 1972. Another argument was that the Geneva Committee had refused to support the accusations of the president of the North Vietnamese Red Cross, Tran Thi Dich, against the use by the Americans of herbicides with high concentrations of dioxins designed to destroy the natural camouflage provided by the forests in the south of the country between 1961 and 1971. By contrast, the ICRC voiced no disapproval of the behavior of the American Red Cross, which was funded by Washington and which helped US troops to accommodate displaced people in ‘peace villages’ in order to prevent the rebels from securing the support of peasants in rural areas. Geneva was suspected of approving this containment strategy because it failed to assist the mountain minorities evacuated by force by the Saigon government in 1966-1969.

-1965, Austria: held in Vienna from 2 to 9 October 1965, the twentieth International Red Cross conference presents the seven basic principles of the movement —humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteering, unity and universality. Organized in a country keen to emphasize its own neutrality, the event is less tense than the conference of New Delhi in 1957 since the rift between China and the USSR and a boycott by Beijing temporarily overshadowed the quarrel over the representation of the Taiwan government. In Vienna, the delegates sanction the emergence of new members in recently decolonized countries. Of the 90 societies attending the event, 25 are taking part for the first time in their history. Following the adoption of resolution 57, the delegates also decide to relieve the ICRC of the obligation to transmit the protests of national societies, often motivated by political considerations in conflicts where their country is involved. Between each international conference, the continuity of the movement is ensured by a Commission composed of nine members: five elected in a plenary session, two appointed by the Federation, and two Committee representatives. The role of mediator performed by the ICRC is henceforth limited to cases of serious breakdown in communication between states. Chaired since September 1964 by a retired colonel, Samuel Gonard, the Committee is keen to protect its neutrality, at the risk of undermining its role of whistleblower denouncing major humanitarian law violations during the Vietnam War. However, national liberation struggles result in major controversies that are detrimental to the ideals of impartial humanitarian action. Held in Istanbul from 6 to 13 September 1969, the twenty-first International Red Cross conference is hijacked by Arab representatives and made to serve as a political tribunal against Israel, which occupies the Gaza Strip and the West Bank territories since the Six Days War in June 1967. Founded in January 1969 and present as an observer in the Jordanian delegation, the Palestinian Red Crescent is among the most virulent voices. Similarly, the representatives of southern and eastern countries, now in a majority, politicize the twenty-fourth International Red Cross conference attended by 121 national societies and held in Manila from 7 to 14 November 1981. Under considerable pressure, the ICRC supports a resolution against the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip and the West Bank territories. In exchange, it secures a vote against the obstacles preventing its delegates from accessing prisoners of war and civilians in Western Sahara, Ethiopian Ogaden, Afghanistan and Eritrea, where Geneva is not authorized to intervene. Keen to redress the balance, the Committee thus reminds the delegates that impediments to the provision of humanitarian aid are caused as much by ‘conservative’ governments as they are by ‘progressive’ guerrilla forces.

-1966-2002, Angola: after an initial refusal in August 1961, the ICRC is authorized by the Portuguese colonial authorities to visit political prisoners and captured freedom fighters. Like Mozambique in 1966, Guinea-Bissau in 1965 and Goa in 1961, the Geneva Committee can assist several categories of detainees, both civilian and military. In an attempt at reciprocity, the ICRC also secures the release of a small number of Portuguese detainees held by guerrilla fighters. From Congo-Kinshasa, the Committee convinces the National Front for the Liberation of Angola, the FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola), to release two young girls and a soldier seriously injured in 1970, following precedents set by the PAIGC (Partido Africano para Independência de Guiné e Cabo Verde) and the FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique), which had released two Portuguese nationals and a further eight in 1968 and 1969 respectively. The 1974 Carnation Revolution in Lisbon subsequently facilitates the work of the ICRC since the new government, which agrees to the independence of its African colonies, agrees to treat the rebels of the FNLA, the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola) and UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola) as prisoners of war and not as mere political detainees. While the Portuguese Red Cross assists its nationals evacuated from Angola, the Geneva Committee extends its operations in the area of healthcare. Following the declaration of independence of Angola in November 1975, the ICRC dispatches medical teams to areas held by the FNLA in Carmona (Uige Province), the MPLA in Dalatando, and UNITA in Nova Lisboa (present-day Huambo). After the takeover by MPLA ‘Marxists’, who drive the other factions out of the capital, the humanitarian institution has to interrupt its operations in October 1976 and is no longer authorized to visit combatants captured by Luanda’s forces, especially South-African soldiers supporting the ‘Maoist’ UNITA guerrilla fighters. In 1979, Geneva is officially allowed to return to Angola to distribute small quantities of relief supplies to displaced people in government-controlled areas. However, UNITA continues to prevent the Committee from accessing prisoners despite a letter dated 25 July 1980 stating its commitment to the general principles of humanitarian law. While the ICRC is able to visit one soldier held by SWAPO (South-West Africa People’s Organisation) in 1980, its actions are focused for the most part on the provision of medical and food aid to civilians. In 1981, as a result of the escalation of fighting and the deterioration of the situation, Angola becomes the Committee’s main field of intervention in Africa. The ICRC provides assistance to civilians displaced by the conflict opposing the MPLA and UNITA, as well as prisoners of war held by SWAPO, which attacks South-African occupying forces in Namibia. From Luanda, Geneva extends its operations to Huambo, Kuito, Lubango and N’Giva. However, the prevailing insecurity compels the Committee to suspend its operations on a number of occasions in the provinces of Huambo, Bié, Huila and Benguela on the Planalto in December 1980 and May 1981. On 20 February 1982, a local employee, Gabriel Sanchez Rodrigues, is killed in a UNITA raid against Mungo in central Planalto. On 25 May 1982, an ICRC convoy is attacked in the same region near Katchiungo, while a nurse, Mary-Josée Burnier, is taken hostage and detained by rebels until 18 September. On 18 October 1982, four local employees are kidnapped by UNITA in the province of Cunene and released several months later. In the region of Huambo, ICRC premises in Bomba Alta and Katchiungo are vandalized and bombed in March, July and September 1982, while André Redard, a delegate, is killed in a traffic collision on 11 May 1982 in Luanda. In the least secure areas, Geneva is forced to suspend its activities, and even suspends all operations for almost a year when, in 1983, the Angolan Red Cross challenges an agreement reached with the Committee. After returning to the area, the humanitarian institution continues to be a target of attacks. A local employee dies when an ICRC planes hits a mine while landing in Chitembo in the province of Bié in September 1985. Marc Blaser, a radio operator, is killed following a raid on Lobito in the province of Benguela on 10 December 1985. In February and November 1985, the ICRC again suspends its activities in the region of Bié as a result of attacks on its Kuito food center. In the province of Huambo, the Committee withdraws for five months following a raid that kills two children of a local employee in Bailundo on 30 December 1985. Both sides fail to comply with humanitarian law, and relief aid is either misappropriated or seized. In Huambo, a city under government control from 1983 to 1993, Jean-Paul de Passos notes that the efforts of the ICRC, seeking to restore water conveyance in 1987, mainly benefit the administration and not the general population. In UNITA strongholds in south-eastern Angola, where the Committee continues its medical operations, warehouses and trains are burgled and plundered on a regular basis. The prevailing insecurity forces the ICRC to resort to air transport, a far more costly and not altogether risk-free form of transport. For instance, in Kuito, the Committee is forced to suspend operations until February 1988 following a plane crash that killed all four crew members, the two passengers and two Angolan nationals on the ground on 14 October 1987. On 23 March 1991, another ICRC plane is hit by a missile near Kuito, this time without causing any casualties. On 14 June, an Angolan employee steps on a mine near Huambo airport. Finally, on 13 July, an ICRC plane hits a bomb on the N’Harea landing strip. After the withdrawal of Cuban and South-African forces, there are hopes that the situation will improve following peace negotiations between the MPLA government and the UNITA when the belligerents authorize the Committee to cross the frontlines by road to provide relief supplies to the population in October 1990. However, the ‘border’ is temporarily closed in December 1989-May 1990 and again in January-June 1991. The resumption of fighting eventually undermines the efforts of the ICRC. For the first time since 1979, the Committee is forced to withdraw altogether from the Planalto in January 1993 and to evacuate all of its expatriates from Kuito and Huambo, where its offices are bombed and destroyed by government forces the following August. In May 1994, Luanda suspends all flights to rebel-held areas. In retaliation, UNITA prevents aerial supplies from reaching the towns recaptured by the government and besieged by rebel forces. Aerial transport becomes increasingly difficult, and the ICRC loses two pilots when a DC-3 crashes while attempting to take off from Lobito on 15 December 1994. The fighting around the UNITA stronghold in Huambo is particularly destructive. Shortly after returning to the area, ICRC expatriates are forced to leave the city during an offensive by the MPLA, which takes control of the area in November 1994. The ICRC delegation is completely plundered and its 35 employees are physically threatened by people they had previously helped. At the national level, Geneva is largely unable to intervene in rural areas held by rebel forces and struggles to gain access to government-controlled urban areas, such as Kuito, which is evacuated following a UNITA bombing in December 1998. Despite significant needs escalating to the point of famine, the distribution of relief supplies is unbalanced because of sanctions imposed on the insurgents by the international community. Interviewed in the journal Politique Internationale in the autumn of 1999, the UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi complains about the situation: ‘Where’s all the aid going? First of all, it’s only sent to one side, the government side, despite the fact that we control between 60% and 70% of the national territory, where half of the population lives. Secondly, food aid is often misappropriated and resold on markets, benefiting the governor and generals. In an emergency, have you ever seen the Angolan government taking a concrete measure to help its population by using its own means and resources? No, the government merely appeals for help, calls on the United Nations, and the international community […]. It’s appalling to see humanitarian aid being used as a weapon of war. Aid is given to some Angolans and not to others just because the UN has decided to inflict punitive measures [on us]’. It is only as a result of the death of Jonas Savimbi on 22 February 2002 and the signature of a ceasefire with UNITA on 4 April that the ICRC is able to access all provinces in the hinterland.

-Since 1967, Israel/Palestine: like a premonition, the ICRC arrives a week before the outbreak of the Six Days War and stays after the ceasefire of 10 June 1967 to provide assistance to Arab soldiers held in Atlith, a camp near Caesarea, and to provide relief supplies to the defeated Egyptian troops deprived of water in the Sinai desert. In July and August, the Committee supervises the exchange of soldiers’ bodies and Syrian, Israeli and Jordanian prisoners of war on the Allenby Bridge, over the Jordan River, and on the Golan Heights. An operation conducted in January 1968 involves over 4,000 Egyptians in el Kantara. Regarding civilians, the ICRC delegate in Tel-Aviv, Laurent Marti, is authorized by the Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to assist the population in the occupied territories, described by Israel as ‘recovered territories’. As part of a personal initiative, the Geneva envoy unsuccessfully attempts to oppose the destruction of houses suspected of sheltering Arab resistance fighters and helps a Palestinian adulteress condemned to death by Koranic law to flee to Lebanon. Maintaining delegations in Tel Aviv and the Gaza Strip, the ICRC also intervenes in matters that extend beyond its mandate and compromise its neutrality. For example, the humanitarian institution is solicited to act as a mediator during the hijacking of a Sabena plane at Lod airport on 8 May 1972. But despite the opposition of Geneva, the ICRC only serves to allay the mistrust of the hijackers before an assault by the Israeli army. As a result, the Committee returns to more traditional activities during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. On this occasion, the issue is the behavior of the belligerents. While Damascus prevents the ICRC from visiting prisoners of war, Tel-Aviv retaliates by refusing access to territories taken from Syria. In June 1974, repatriations on both sides are conducted under the aegis of the Unites States, not the Committee. In November 1973, Geneva is only able to evacuate some 1,300 patients from the Suez hospital and to supervise the release of Egyptian soldiers captured in the Sinai and released in exchange for a handful of Israeli soldiers. The ICRC turns its attention to prisoner exchanges with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) in Cyprus on 22 February 1980 and in Lebanon on 23 and 24 November 1983. Despite challenging the applicability of the Geneva Conventions, the Israeli government authorizes the Committee to assist detainees in the occupied territories. Initially granted in December 1967, its right of access is subsequently renegotiated in November 1977 and again in March 1979, allowing the ICRC to conduct unsupervised interviews with prisoners and to provide medical care in a period reduced from fourteen to ten days after their arrest, as opposed to thirty days previously. Following the uprising of the first Intifada in December 1987, which results in an inflow of prisoners, the Oslo Accords represent a significant development by granting a limited autonomy to the Palestinian territories. By virtue of a protocol signed on 13 July 1994 with the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, who had signed up to the Geneva Conventions on 21 June 1989, the ICRC is authorized to visit all political prisoners held by the Palestinian Authority immediately after their arrest – at least in theory. However, in practice, the Committee is only granted access to detention centers in 1996, though it is unable to converse freely with prisoners. The continued fighting, resulting in the death of a Palestinian ambulance driver in September 1996, also imposes significant restrictions on relief operations for civilians. Beginning in September 2000, the second Intifada exacerbates the situation. Soldiers of the Israeli Defence Forces (Tsahal) are ordered to kill all armed combatants, including those who do not target them, and make tragic mistakes by shooting minors who play with imitation weapons. On the Palestinian side, the proliferation of terrorist attacks, the corruption of the PLO and the erosion of its authority in favor of the rival Hamas Islamists also contribute to the resurgence of violence. Humanitarian law is largely ignored on both sides. Geneva is not authorized to visit prisoners detained by Hamas in the Gaza strip, and its staff are not immune to attacks. In the West Bank, a local ICRC official is briefly kidnapped on 14 March 2006 to avenge an attack of Tsahal on the Jericho prison carried out with the intention of capturing a leader of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), Ahmad Sa’adat. As a result of the containment strategy devised by the Jews, who begin to build a separation barrier in 2002, ambulances encounter greater obstacles at Israeli checkpoints. The blockade results in a deterioration of living conditions in the occupied territories, particularly in terms of health. However, the ICRC is reluctant to distribute supplies because it refuses to act as a substitute for the occupying power, which has a social and economic responsibility toward the Palestinians. In West Bank towns between July 2002 and December 2003, the Committee only provides relief to the most vulnerable families in the form of vouchers worth 90 dollars per month. Despite the risk of forgery and fraud, the system has the advantage of circumventing the Palestinian authorities, who often attempt to misappropriate aid, and to favor the purchase of local products to boost the local economy. However, in the Gaza strip, the introduction of a blockade against Hamas, in power following the legislative elections of January 2006, results in a deterioration of the situation. The humanitarian crisis reaches a critical level following an Israeli attack on the territory in January 2009. Because of the restrictions imposed by the army, the ICRC struggles to conduct operations in the area and to assist the victims of bombings. One of its convoys comes under Israeli fire, while another is blocked in Khan Yunis before being allowed to evacuate the injured toward Egypt. Departing from its usual reserve, the ICRC deems the matter to be so serious that it publicly denounces the behavior of Tsahal in a statement issued on 8 January 2009.

-Since 1968, Nigeria: the ICRC intervenes in the conflict between the federal government of Yakubu Gowon and the Igbo secessionists led by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, who proclaimed an independent Republic of Biafra in the east of the country in May 1967. Geneva initially seeks to distribute supplies in both camps: the rebel enclave, numbering almost six million inhabitants, and the territories reclaimed by the Nigerian army, sheltering between four and five million people. The need for relief is more urgent on the secessionist side, which is more difficult to access. The risk of famine becomes more pronounced when the rebel zone is completely surrounded following the loss of its last remaining sea outlet, Port Harcourt, in May 1968. A spectacular situation attracting significant media coverage, the humanitarian crisis results in the death of between 100,000 and four million people within two years, at a rate of 10,000 deaths per day from August 1968, based on the figures provided by humanitarian organizations. The challenge is significant for Geneva, which attempts to negotiate a land corridor to enable the provision of supplies across the frontlines. An ICRC delegate for West Africa until his dismissal in January 1968, Georg Hoffmann goes to Kampala during peace negotiations to obtain a relaxation of the Nigerian blockade, but to no avail: the federal government refuses the intervention of foreign troops to guarantee the neutrality of the proposed corridor and continues to use hunger as a weapon of war to hasten the surrender of the secessionists. For reasons of precedence and sovereignty, the rebels oppose the transportation of relief through Nigeria, alleging that the supplies may be contaminated ­– suspicions subsequently confirmed by traces of arsenic and cyanide found by a nutritionist, Jean Mayer, and a senator, Charles Goodell, during an inquiry presented to the United States Congress on 25 February 1969. Meanwhile, the Biafrans fear that the neutralization of a land corridor could interfere with their military operations in Agwu and prevent them from recapturing their capital, Enugu, recently fallen to the hands of the federal troops. They prefer to transport supplies by plane which, under the guise of humanitarian aid, can also be used to bring weapons and to counter the restrictions on imports by sea from Port Harcourt. The ICRC is thus forced to resort to an airlift and struggles to overcome the reluctance of the federal government, the secessionists and even the former British colonial authorities, which (according to Dan Jacobs) attempt to dissuade Geneva from providing relief to the Biafrans in order to shorten the war, protect their economic interests in Nigeria and prevent Lagos from swinging over to the Soviet Union if London had to suspend its arms shipments to Yakubu Gowon under the pressure of public opinion. The Committee, which had just evacuated Europeans from Bukavu in Congo, set a precedent by sending humanitarian goods by plane to the rebels in Port Harcourt in November 1967 without the approval of the authorities. The initiative offends the government in Lagos, which accuses the ICRC of supplying weapons to the Biafrans and which suspends all flights in January 1968, allegedly because it is no longer able to guarantee their security, though in reality to force them to land in federal-controlled territory to check their cargo. As an exception, Geneva subsequently decides in April 1968 to bypass official authorizations and to set up an air bridge like the Americans in Berlin in June 1948, yet on a bigger scale. Known as INALWA (International Airlift West Africa), the operation is very costly and results in a deficit roughly equivalent to a quarter of the Committee’s annual budget. Worse still, the air bridge is highly controversial since it contributes to prolong the conflict by enabling the surrounded rebels to continue fighting. The Geneva Committee initially resorts to the services of an American adventurer, Hank Warton, who also provides weapons to the secessionists. Repainted in the colors of the ICRC, the planes change their itinerary on a regular basis to avoid giving the impression of taking off from the Portuguese island of São Tomé and Príncipe, the rear base of the Biafrans used by churches to operate illegal flights in violation of the Nigerian airspace. However, Yakubu Gowon’s government is not fooled by the strategy: in July 1968, an airplane crash in federal territory reveals the deception. Within Biafra, the provision of relief is handed over to the forces led by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. As it does not have a permanent representative on site, the Committee has to entrust the secessionist authorities with the task of distributing supplies and must agree to feed the guards of Nigerian prisoners of war between April and July 1968. In other words, the ICRC has virtually no control over the use of its relief since its discussions with the Biafrans are conducted in Geneva through the intermediary of the vice-president of the institution, Jacques Freymond. The delegate general sent by the Committee to the rebel enclave area, a businessman called Heinrich Jaggi, is equally unsuccessful in neutralizing a civilian airport built in Obilagun with the help of Swiss Air Force advisers before being bombed by federal troops in August 1968. Despite refusing the armed escort of the Biafrans, the Committee’s activities are closely monitored. The radio equipment provided to guide the relief planes are seized by the rebels after the capture of Obilagun by the Nigerian Army in September 1968. The Uli military airbase is the only site where supplies are unloaded, along with weapons. Since it represents the last link of the secessionist enclave with the outside world, the place is often targeted by federal troops. The discussions conducted by the ICRC with the Nigerians and the Biafrans highlight the strategic issues at stake in the airborne supplies. Though initially hostile, Yakubu Gowon’s government eventually agrees to tolerate daytime landings on the condition that the secessionists neutralize Uli and allow the Nigerian aviation to fly over the site in order to unload humanitarian cargo. The Biafrans refuse to abandon their only military airport and argue that daylight operations would reveal the location of their camouflaged airstrips in the bush. The conflict also involves global public opinion. The image of the rebels suffers as a result of their decision to prevent daytime humanitarian convoys. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu is suspected of exploiting famine in order to attract sympathy and donations from the West. Despite the propaganda of his press agency in Switzerland, it is not altogether clear that he orchestrated the fate of the victims: as noted by Michel Leapman, the Biafran authorities seek to conceal the starving population from the prying eyes of journalists to avoid drawing attention to their incompetence in the provision of food supplies. But the ICRC is caught between the secessionists, who prevent the Committee from landing in the daytime, and the federal forces, who revoke the authorization to fly by night in November 1968. By virtue of agreements signed on 11 April and 3 September 1968, Geneva only secures the right to fly over by day ‘at its own risk’. The new measures mean that the Committee is exposed to firing from government troops and enable Lagos to control the rate of supplies from Santa Isabel on the Spanish island of Fernando Po, unlike the illegal flights operated by the churches from São Tomé and Príncipe. Other factors contribute to reducing access to Biafra despite the growing famine. Fernando Po, which secured independence as Equatorial Guinea in October 1968, suspends all ICRC flights to satisfy the demands of the Nigerian authorities and out of hostility toward the Igbo, the majority group in Biafra and in the immigrant population of an island also in the grip of secessionist tensions. Accused of transporting weapons, though in fact conveying fuel for trucks used to distribute supplies in the secessionist enclave, the Committee is forced to suspend all operations from Santa Isabel in November 1969. Various attempts to transport relief from other countries are unsuccessful. While Cameroon supports the federal blockade, Gabon openly sides with the secessionists and officially recognizes the Republic of Biafra. To preserve its neutrality, the ICRC declines the offer to operate from Libreville in a letter sent on 4 May 1969 to the French Red Cross based in Gabon, which began to send supplies illegally in French military aircrafts loaded with weapons for the rebels in August 1968. The Republic of Dahomey (present-day Benin), which borders Western Nigeria, is prevented from serving as an operational base because of pressure from the authorities in Lagos and the presence of a Yoruba minority hostile to the Igbo of Biafra. The attempt by the ICRC to set up an airlift from Cotonou in February 1969 is impeded by Yakubu Gowon despite the agreement of the president of Benin Emile Zinsou, a doctor sympathetic to the victims of the famine in the secessionist enclave. In the meantime, the situation continues to deteriorate in Biafra, where the Committee is subject to reprisals. On 30 September 1968, four volunteers are assassinated by federal troops during the capture of Okigwe in the district of Awo-Omama: two British missionaries of the World Council of Churches (Albert and Marjorie Savory), a Yugoslavian (Dragan Hercog), and a Swede (Robert Carlsson). In January 1969, Awo-Omama hospital is bombed by Nigerian forces, which ignore the Red Cross emblem. ICRC planes are not immune from attacks either despite the precautions taken by Geneva, which is careful to provide federal troops with the details of every flight to avoid blunders. Perilous landings in the bush result in a number of lethal accidents. On 6 May 1969, all crew members of an ICRC airplane – three Swedes and one German – die as a result of crashing near Uli. In addition, the federal forces have little trust in the Committee since its special envoy August Lindt protested against the military requisition of a Red Cross plane and authorized a cargo flight to Biafra without government authorization. The blunders become deliberate before reaching a climax when an ICRC plane is shot down by the Nigerian Army above Ikot Okoro on 5 June 1969, causing the death of one American (David Brown), one Norwegian (Stig Carlson), and two Swedes (Kiell Pettersen and Harry Axelsson). The blatant violation of humanitarian law forces Geneva to publicly protest and to suspend its operations. As a result, the federal authorities relieve the organization of its coordinating role and entrust the responsibility of all food and medical supplies to a governmental committee on 30 June. Stationed in Lagos since August 1968, August Lindt is expelled and replaced by Georg Hoffmann, who is reputed to be more favorable to Yakubu Gowon, and later by Enrico Bignami, a former Nestlé executive. The ICRC is limited to distributing supplies illegally transported by the French Red Cross and the churches, which refused to suspend their operations in protest against the attack of June 1969. The Committee unsuccessfully attempts to negotiate over Uli to secure the right to operate night flights from Cotonou or Santa Isabel by enabling the Nigerians to divert planes toward Lagos to perform unannounced inspections. Despite an agreement with the federal authorities reached on 13 September 1969, the Biafrans emphasize the principle of reciprocity and block the situation by claiming the right to ban all suspect planes from landing and to appoint a representative on the committee set up to control all flights. The secessionists argue that the proposed compromise weakens the defense of Uli in return for a relatively low level of aid, while the churches continue to operate illegal flights from São Tomé and Príncipe. With a three-week trial period and limited landing times, the new system has the disadvantage of forcing all humanitarian organizations to operate under the control of the ICRC. However, the project is made null and void by the surrender of the rebels in January 1970. The victorious Nigerian army is distrustful of humanitarian organizations, suspected of harboring Biafran sympathies, and prevents them from using the airstrips of Uli, Orlu, Uga and Obilagun. The ICRC, which is not invited to support the reconstruction of the country, is forced to hand over its equipment to the local Red Cross and to close its offices in March 1970. The Committee will eventually return to Lagos eighteen years later to open a delegation transferred in March 2003 to Abuja, the new federal capital. The results of its operations in Biafra are somewhat mixed. David Forsythe argues that under British pressure the Committee failed to display political subtlety and lucidity, particularly August Lindt, a diplomat from the ‘chocolate family’, a Swiss ambassador in Washington and Moscow, and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Influenced by the Markpress agency, which relayed the propaganda of the rebels in Geneva, the ICRC was unable to preserve the trust of the Nigerian government. For example, in May 1968, the Committee fostered the impression of supporting the rebels when it launched an appeal inappropriately entitled ‘SOS Biafra’. Similarly, in a statement issued on 17 August 1968, the ICRC criticized the federal authorities but not the secessionists, despite the fact that the latter played an equally important role in putting up barriers to the transportation of aid. Within the Committee, some delegates made no attempt to conceal their Biafran sympathies and expressed outrage at their inability to break through the Nigerian blockade. Among the volunteers sent into the field, a young doctor called Bernard Kouchner broke the ‘law of silence’, forewarning of a ‘genocide’ that never actually occurred after the victory of the federal authorities. As for the vice-president of the ICRC, Jacques Freymond, Susan Cronje explains that he transmitted key intelligence from the American services to the Biafran envoy in Geneva, revealing that in July 1969 the enemy air force had acquired equipment capable of intercepting night flights. The Committee thus appeared to be biased, and as a result the press in Lagos soon began to accuse the humanitarian institution of violating the national sovereignty of Nigeria, particularly the Daily Times of 8 July and 18 August 1968. With collaborators recruited on the spot and not always prepared for the reality of Africa, ICRC members also offended local sensitivities by their lavish lifestyle and their arrogant and (in some cases) neo-colonialist attitudes. In practice, the Committee appealed more often to the Swiss embassy in Lagos than to the Nigerian Red Cross. A marked reluctance to develop a genuine partnership was displayed on both sides. As noted by Max Niven, the Nigerian Red Cross was mistrustful of a distinctly ‘imperialistic’ and ‘white’ institution. Under the leadership of Saidu Mohammed, it imposed a maximum quota of a third of expatriates in its teams and requested their withdrawal where local competence was available. Its president, Adetokunbo Ademola (1906-1993), was a Yoruba protestant not inclined to put pressure on the authorities to provide aid to the Catholic Igbo in the Biafran enclave. The serving president of the Supreme Court, he even opted not to condemn the attack of the Nigerian Air Force against an ICRC plane in Ikot Okoro. Quoted by the Daily Times of 12 June 1969, he approved military operations against organizations illegally providing aid to Biafra. However, after the surrender of the rebels, the Nigerian Red Cross was unable to remove the administrative obstacles impeding the distribution of relief supplies placed under its responsibility since February 1970. With insufficient stocks, its trucks were forced to travel with armed escorts and were stolen on a regular basis. Others remained blocked in Lagos and were requisitioned by the government, which relieved the Nigerian Red Cross of all operations in June 1970 in order to take exclusive control of the situation.

-Since 1969, South Africa: unlike the system in place in Southern Rhodesia, where the Committee is only authorized to assist suspects before sentencing, the ICRC signs an agreement in 1969 with the racist apartheid regime to secure the right to interview political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela. But it is denied access to detainees awaiting trial, who are the most exposed to ill treatment and abuse, as illustrated by the alleged ‘suicide’ of the leader of the Black Consciousness movement Steve Biko following an abusive police interrogation in 1977. However, in an attempt to improve its image in the international community, the government in Pretoria decides in December 1976 to allow the ICRC to visit detainees held as a preventive measure by virtue of the Internal Security Amendment Act, but not the Terrorism Act. After the Soweto uprising, the situation deteriorates nonetheless. The South African government refuses to grant a prisoner of war status to activists of the ANC (African National Congress) and even prosecutes and condemns some of them despite the legal precedents set by the occupying authorities in Namibia and Palestine, which avoided imposing death sentences on members of the SWAPO (South-West Africa People’s Organisation) and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization). Thus three guerrilla fighters, Simon Mogoerane, Jerry Mosololi and Marcus Motaung, are executed in 1983. In 1985 and 1988, other detained members of the armed branch of the ANC dispute the legitimacy of South African tribunals and make an unsuccessful request to be granted a prisoner of war status in order to avoid a trial. Meanwhile, the Geneva Committee is unable to secure the right to visit detainees held as part of the state of emergency declared in July 1985. Compromised along with a police officer of the regime, an homosexual administrator of the ICRC mission in South Africa is imprisoned for embezzling funds. In October 1986, Committee delegates are declared persona non grata before being invited to return to the country in limited numbers: five, as opposed to sixteen previously. Having failed to gain access to all detainees, the ICRC eventually suspends its visits to mark its opposition to the regime’s prison policy. In the homelands of Gazankulu and Kangwane at the border with warring Mozambique, the Committee decides to refocus its operations on protection and the distribution of aid to refugees and asylum seekers. In dealing with persons deprived of their liberty, the ICRC is equally unsuccessful in neighboring countries where the exiled guerrilla fighters of the ANC are based. Despite its commitment to the general principles of humanitarian law in a letter dated 28 November 1980, Nelson Mandela’s movement consistently prevents Geneva from visiting ‘dissidents’ held in camps in Uganda, Tanzania or Zambia: at the end of the apartheid regime, the ANC will announce that it has released all prisoners, although no independent body will be allowed to verify the claim. The situation returns to normal following the democratization of South Africa. After the release of Nelson Mandela on 11 February 1990, the ICRC negotiates an official agreement signed on 8 July 1992 to provide assistance to sentenced prisoners or persons in preventive detention. On 2 October 1992, Geneva also secures the right to conduct visits without prior notice in police stations in South Africa and the ‘independent’ homelands of Bophuthatswana, KwaZulu, Transkei and Ciskei. Unanimously accepted by all parties, the ICRC is able to help the victims of violence with funds granted by the ANC and the government at the hands of the NP (National Party). After the elections and the accession to power of Nelson Mandela in April 1994, significant challenges remain, particularly the rise of the AIDS epidemic and the high levels of armed crime. Despite the death of one of its employees in 2001, the ICRC continues to maintain a regional delegation in Pretoria.

-Since 1970, Jordan: ten days before organizing a medical mission during the uprising of Palestinian refugees against the regime of King Hussein I, the ICRC is required to act as mediator with the pirates responsible for hijacking three airplanes belonging to TWA (Trans World Airlines), Swiss Air and BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation). However, the Committee refuses to negotiate the sole release of non-Israeli passengers and withdraws from the discussions when the hijackers of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) take their last hostages to hidden sanctuaries that are eventually stormed by the Jordanian army. When the civil war breaks out on 17 September 1970, the ICRC returns to more traditional relief operations. Although its delegation in Amman is caught in the midst of fighting and cut off from the outside world, a medical team is able to travel to provide medical care to the injured on both sides. The ICRC also sends supplies distributed by the Jordanian and Palestinian Red Crescents in November and December. From 1971, it is permitted to visit political prisoners held by the monarchy. Finally, Geneva conducts larger-scale operations during the first Gulf crisis, mainly to assist Asian immigrants who fled Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion in August 1990. Up until November, the ICRC teams and the Jordanian Red Crescent provide aid to approximately 300,000 people in transit. They build camps to provide shelter to up to 35,000 refugees, for example at the frontier post of Rwaished. Handed over to the local Red Crescent, one of the sites is soon required to move because it was set up too hastily on the Azraq groundwater basin, which supplies Amman with drinking water.

-1971-1972, Bangladesh: following the Biafran secession, the ICRC intervenes in the Eastern part of Pakistan fighting for independence and establishes a safe haven to shelter civilians in Dacca. As in Nigeria, the Committee encounters considerable difficulties in seeking to negotiate access to the rebels after dispatching a plane to Karachi without official authorization. Initially on site to distribute aid to flood victims, the ICRC also suffers a number of accidents, for example when one of its aircrafts crashes in Dacca on 30 November 1970, killing all four crew members (Jean-Paul Tompers of Luxemburg and Omar Tomasson, Birgir Orn Jonsson and Stefan Olafsson of Iceland). Following the internationalization of the conflict as a result of the intervention of the Indian army in favor of the secessionists, the Committee becomes involved in operations aimed at releasing prisoners of war. However, the ICRC’s relations with New Delhi and Islamabad are poor. India subjects Pakistani prisoners of war to abuse and ill treatment, while prison guards kill detainees who attempt to escape. In March, October and November 1972, New Delhi is unable to prevent riots in the camps under its responsibility, eventually driving out a Committee delegate following the publication of an ICRC report by Pakistan. India deliberately delays the repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war after the end of the conflict and the independence of Bangladesh in December 1971. The intention of New Delhi is to release them in exchange for recognition of the new state by Islamabad. Despite these obstacles, the ICRC is able to protect the Bihar minority, some 700,000 people evacuated to Pakistan, and facilitates the repatriation of several tens of millions of Bengali refugees from India. The Bihari, who are Pakistani citizens, are unpopular because of their support for Islamabad, their resistance to the secession and their contempt of Bangladeshis. In the suburbs of Dacca, they refuse to participate to the construction of their own refugee camps, and the ICRC is forced to pay Bengalis to service the area. Laurent Marti, a Committee delegate, uses the opportunity to organize unofficial distributions of aid in the surrounding villages, where the natives are just as destitute as the Bihari. Pushed by the LRCS, which had intervened during the 1970 floods and had asked to replace the ICRC following the return to peace, the Committee eventually decides to leave the country, handing over its equipment and resources to the new Bangladesh Red Cross.

-Since 1972, Burundi: in a country where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees opened its first office in Sub-Saharan Africa in 1962, the ICRC intervenes to assist the Hutu victims of pogroms carried out by the ruling Tutsi. The Committee is soon forced to suspend operations as a result of being prevented by the government from supervising the distribution of aid. The ICRC repatriates its delegates in July 1972 and hands over its programs to the LRCS and the local Red Cross, dominated by Tutsis close to the government and keen to reserve relief supplies for so-called ‘deserving’ communities. The Committee subsequently returns to the country during fighting in Ntega and Marangara in August 1988. But it is unable to rely on the local Red Cross, which continues to misappropriate relief to the benefit of the Tutsi-dominated authorities: in 1993, note for example Jean-Hervé Bradol and Claudine Vidal, the organization seizes the majority of the supplies aimed at Burundian Hutu refugee camps in Rwanda, where mortality rates are high. The assassination of the president-elect in April 1994 plunges the country into chaos and places considerable restrictions on humanitarian interventions. In 1995, the ICRC is denied access to the Burundian provinces of Bubanza in August and Cibitoke following the assassination of a local employee caught in an ambush on 6 November. The Committee is also forced to suspend operations in the capital city, where confrontations with the rebels result in significant damage to one of the hospitals in Bujumbura on 8 December, killing seven nurses and injuring twenty patients. The institution eventually withdraws from the country after the death of three of its delegates in the province of Cibitoke on 4 June 1996 (Cédric Martin, Reto Neuenschwander and Juan Pastor Ruffino) in an ambush probably carried out by the army in an attempt to eliminate witnesses while soldiers carry out massacres in villages. The ICRC is only able to resume the provision of aid to displaced people and to gain access to prisoners three years later, in March 1999, at the risk of funding the renovation of prisons in Burundi. Working conditions remain difficult. Four months after its return to the capital, the institution is no longer authorized to travel by road, and is forced to fly by plane to go to rural areas. As a result of failing to secure free access to the victims of a drought in 2001, the ICRC teams decide to suspend the distribution of aid. However, humanitarian workers remain subject to violence, as illustrated by an attack against the Committee’s offices in Gitega in 2002, an operation in which one guard is killed and another injured. The ICRC also has difficult relations with the medical and political authorities, where the Hutu are better represented since the signature of peace agreements in Arusha in August 2000. The Burundi Red Cross is particularly unreliable and Geneva withdraws its funding in December 1993 as a result of continued infighting between the rival factions of the president of the society, Doctor François-Xavier Buyoya, and the new Health minister, Doctor Jean Kamana, who is keen to dismiss most of the Tutsi personnel and to replace them with Hutu employees. Now in the hands of former Hutu rebels, the government is no more conciliatory than the Tutsi-dominated junta of 1996-2002. In May 2005, it threatens to expel the ICRC and the UNHCR, accused of sheltering Rwandese refugees whom President Domitien Ndayizeye is keen to deport to satisfy the demands of his counterpart Paul Kagame, in power in Kigali.

-Since 1973, Iran: the twenty-second International Red Cross Conference, held in Tehran from 8 to 15 November 1973, is attended by delegates from 78 governments and 98 national societies. Placed under the auspices of the Shah, the event is hosted by the Red Lion and Sun Society, an organization founded in January 1923 and recognized by Geneva despite its refusal to bear the emblem of the movement. The ICRC has relatively good relations with the government, an ally of the United States. In March 1974, the Committee is authorized to work from Iran to provide assistance to Kurds of Iraq despite the opposition of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad. However, it is soon forced to suspend its cross-border operations when the two countries reconcile and sign an agreement in Algiers to delimit the frontier along the Shatt-El-Arab in March 1975. The ICRC remains in Iran to visit political prisoners, who are becoming increasingly numerous as the regime of the Shah encounters mounting resistance and multiplies repressive measures. The Committee, which secures access to the prisons of the capital in April 1977, is able to extend its activities in the provinces when martial law is declared in September 1978. After overturning the Shah in February 1980, the Islamists allow the ICRC to continue to assist political prisoners until September 1981. However, in December 1979, the new government quotes the most unfavorable extracts from ICRC reports to further discredit the former regime. As a result, the Committee is forced to issue a press statement on 9 January 1980 emphasizing that the visits conducted on 21 June 1977, 22 February 1978 and 17 October 1978 showed that the pressures exerted by Geneva had been successful in reducing the level of physical abuse inflicted on prisoners. The situation changes significantly after the outbreak of the war with Iraq in September 1980. The ICRC struggles to gain access to camps in Parandak, Heshmatiyeh, Mehrabad, Gorgan, Davoudieh, Bandar-e-Anzali and Karak, where Iraqi prisoners of war are held. Having failed to obtain the right to conduct unsupervised interviews with detainees, Geneva is forced to suspend its visits on several occasions – between August and October 1981, November 1981 and January 1982, April 1982 and February 1983, March 1983 and June 1983, July 1983 and September 1984, and October 1984 and December 1986. Following a number of serious incidents in the Mehrabad camp in 1983, the Committee is accused of causing trouble during a riot that results in several deaths in Gorgan and the expulsion of an ICRC delegate in October 1984. Subsequently, the ICRC is only able to access roughly fifteen camps and is forced to withdraw from the country altogether for almost three years between 1987 and 1989. Meanwhile, the president of the ICRC, Alexandre Hay, publicly denounces international humanitarian law violations by Iran, particularly the ill treatment and ideological indoctrination of Iraqi prisoners of war on 23 November 1984 and the recruitment of child soldiers and the bombing of civilian populations on 28 May 1985. The implementation of a ceasefire in August 1988 fails to resolve the issue. Iraqi prisoners of war are neither released nor counted for identification purposes. Despite a slight rapprochement between Iran and the West during the first Gulf crisis in 1991, when the United States launch an attack on the regime in Baghdad and liberate Kuwait, the ICRC is still prevented from conducting unsupervised interviews with prisoners to prepare voluntary repatriation operations. After returning to the camps in January 1992, the Committee is immediately accused of overstepping its mandate and expelled from the country two months later. With the exception of very brief visits in November 1993, the ICRC is denied access to some 19,000 Iraqi prisoners of war still detained in Iran. The limited number of repatriations which begin in April 1998 are initially conducted without the supervision or assistance of Geneva, which is forced to wait until February 2004 to re-open a delegation in Tehran, sign a formal agreement and obtain information about the last remaining Iraqi prisoners of war that have yet to be identified, often released in Iran without the means or the desire to return to their country. In the meantime, the Committee sets up camps in the provinces of Khuzestan and Bakhtaran in order to provide shelter to some 50,000 Shiite Iraqi refugees who fled to Khorramshahr, Abadan and Bustan to escape the predominantly Sunnite regime of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf crisis in 1991. During the same period, the ICRC also provides aid to Kurdish refugees on oversized sites in Saveh and Oshnavieh in the provinces of Kurdistan and Azerbaijan. To ensure a rapid provision of relief, its equipment is pre-positioned in a base in Orumiyeh, where the Committee is authorized to land airplanes and to import unused logistical resources from Syria, Jordan and Bahrain, at the risk of spending more funds than if the supplies were transported directly from Europe. Between December 2001 and August 2002, the ICRC returns briefly to Iran to deal with the repatriation of Afghan refugees in Mashhad. The Committee remains in the country longer than initially planned since a significant exodus of Iraqis is predicted following the US military intervention against Saddam Hussein in March 2003. Based in Kermanshah, the ICRC is thus in a position to rescue the victims of an earthquake in Bam the following December. Combined with the repatriation of a small number of Iranian civilians caught by the war in Iraq, the aid provided by the Committee enables Geneva to consolidate its presence in Tehran, despite still being unable to visit political prisoners.

-Since 1974, Ethiopia: the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, who overthrew the Negus monarchy in Addis Ababa in September 1974, prevents the ICRC from intervening in Eritrea, where secessionist movements are fighting to secure independence. Keen to starve the region in order to dislodge the rebels, the authorities refuse to recognize the crisis. Departing from its basic principles, the ICRC decides to deal directly with the insurgents from Sudan, where it is already involved in assisting Eritrean refugees in the regions of Kassala and Port Sudan. The challenge is to distribute the aid fairly between the various guerrilla forces: the predominantly Christian Marxists of the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) and the predominantly Muslim nationalists of the ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front), each with its own humanitarian branch, the ERA (Eritrean Relief Association) and the Eritrean Red Crescent respectively. Between 1978 and 1982, the Committee funds approximately one quarter of the operations carried out by ERA. The ICRC also provides supplies on a more sporadic basis to the Eritrean Red Crescent, amounting to just half of the tonnage given to the ERA in 1979. However, the Committee fails to secure the full and complete trust of the EPLF. The Marxist-inspired movement soon crushes its ELF rivals and prevents the humanitarian institution from accessing its prisoners of war, using defense security as an argument, in the absence of reciprocity on the Ethiopian side, and because of the refusal of Geneva to denounce the abuses committed by Mengistu Haile Mariam. Allied with the EPLF, the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) and its humanitarian branch, REST (Relief Society of Tigray), are no more open to aid, and no attempt is made by the Committee to negotiate access to prisoners. Paradoxically, the ICRC is more successful in dealing with the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam in Addis Ababa. In March 1978, October 1979, April and October 1980 and February 1981, the Committee is able to visit a small number of soldiers caught during an armed conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia over the region of Ogaden from July 1977. As noted by David Kline, the issue is that ICRC supplies are not distributed free but used to pay the work required of Somali prisoners of war, in violation of the Geneva Conventions. The Ethiopian government is quick to reconsider its decision, and prohibits access to detention centers in July 1981. However, the following December, the ICRC signs an agreement that allows Geneva to establish permanent delegates to ensure the provision of aid to Somali prisoners. The Committee also manages a rehabilitation center for disabled veterans in Debre Zeyit between January 1979 and December 1982. In 1983, the ICRC secures the right to distribute aid in the region of Tigray, both on the government side (from Addis-Ababa) and on the rebel side (from Port Sudan). The challenge is the significant logistical and political cost of the operation, conducted along the Sudanese border. Keen to preserve its neutrality and to avoid any dependence on REST, the Committee sends its own teams into the field, chartering a fleet of trucks in its name and concealing the Red Cross emblem targeted by the Ethiopian army, whose air force attacks ICRC convoys in 1985. To avoid compromising the pursuit of its operations, no attempt is made by Geneva to denounce the deportations carried out by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam in order to empty the north of the country and to deprive the guerrillas of the support of the peasantry during the 1984 famine. After the expulsion of MSF teams in December 1985, the ICRC decides in March 1986 to repatriate its head of mission in Addis-Ababa, Leon de Riedmatten, who had protested against the expulsions to the south and the use of blackmail in negotiations over the survival of famine victims in the Tigray. Unlike most of the NGOs still present in the area, Geneva abstains from taking part in deportations arbitrarily described as resettlements on the grounds of agricultural development. Having suspended all operations between December 1986 and May 1987, the Committee refuses to bow to the new orders of the regime and to be placed under the authority of the Ethiopian Red Cross and its president Dawit Zawde, both under the control of the dictatorship. In a press statement issued on 12 February 1987, the ICRC denounces the government blockades and is forced to stop its cross-border operations between Sudan, Tigray, and Eritrea the following May. The ICRC is finally expelled in June 1988, but is able to facilitate the repatriation of Somali prisoners of war after the signature of a peace agreement between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa on 3 April 1988. The IFRC takes over by complying with the injunctions of the authorities, which prohibit the distribution of supplies in the rebel-controlled area in the north. Before re-entering the country, the ICRC is forced to wait until the guerrillas are able to make some headway, particularly in Eritrea, where the resumption of fighting announces the imminent collapse of the dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. The ICRC is subsequently allowed to send supplies to Asmara by plane since it is no longer able to travel by road from the port of Massawa, fallen to the pro-independence movement in February 1990. In Addis Ababa, the Committee retakes control of Bacha hospital, where Soviet Red Cross teams continue to provide care until the very last days of the dictatorship in May 1991. The ICRC continues nevertheless to encounter significant administrative obstacles after the victory of the TPLF and the EPLF, which initially force the institution out of the country the following June. Until February 1992, Geneva is not authorized to visit prisoners detained by the new authorities and is only able to facilitate the repatriation of 248,568 soldiers demobilized in Tigray and Eritrea and regrouped in camps in Tole, Hurso and Tetek from January 1992. The ICRC returns to Addis-Ababa during the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea over a disputed border in June 1998-July 2000. Once again, the Committee is required to obtain specific authorizations from the belligerents. In Asmara, where it opens a delegation in August 1998, the Committee is eventually allowed to provide assistance to Ethiopian prisoners of war after Eritrea signs up to the Geneva Conventions in August 2000, i.e. after the end of the conflict. As well as visiting 4,300 civilians grouped in camps and 1,200 detainees held in prisons or police stations, the ICRC facilitates the return of 12,000 Eritrean nationals and of 300 Ethiopians detained in Asmara. In Addis Ababa, access to prisoners of war is easier, and the final repatriations on both sides are conducted in 2002. The provision of aid to civilian victims of the conflict is a far more complicated issue. Between February and August 1999, the ICRC is forced to suspend operations targeting displaced populations in the Tigray and is expelled along with all of the other humanitarian organizations operating in the region. While it is allowed to provide assistance to the inhabitants of Senafe occupied by the Ethiopian army after the resumption of fighting in May 2000, the Committee is forced to wait until the end of the war to resettle the families evacuated during the conflict, particularly in the border town of Zalambessa. Access to other regions with latent insurgencies is also limited. In Somali-dominated Ogaden in particular, the ICRC is forced to suspend its operations on a number of occasions because of the prevailing insecurity. Six local employees are captured on the Gode-Jijiga road on 25 June 1998 before being released on 10 July. In September 2006, an Irish collaborator, Donal O’Suilleabhain, and an Ethiopian, Hadis Ahmed Samatar, are kidnapped approximately fifty kilometers north of Gode and released five days later by the UWSLF (United Western Somali Liberation Front), which had mistaken them for staff working for an oil company. The situation is further complicated by the attitude of the authorities. Accused of collaborating with the enemy and disseminating false information, the ICRC is expelled from Ogaden in July 2007 because rebels denounce the Ethiopian blockades preventing the arrival of basic foodstuffs. The Committee is also subject to significant restrictions in the capital Addis-Ababa, where it had begun to support the reform of the Ethiopian prison system in 2004 after securing the right to assist some 8,000 political detainees held in police stations in 2000. Following the unrest caused by the fraudulent elections of May 2005, the government suspends access to federal prisons in December 2005 and to police stations in April 2006.

-Since 1975, Cambodia: the ICRC encounters increasing difficulties as the fighting intensifies between the Khmer Rouge guerrilla forces of Pol Pot and the soldiers of General Lon Nol, in power in Phnom Penh with the support of the United States. The Committee is unable to secure the trust of the rebels, who are generally wary of Western organizations and who blame Geneva for only inviting the Cambodian government to international Red Cross conferences. The ICRC also incurs the anger of King Norodom Sihanouk, who was overthrown by the coup d’état of Lon Nol in 1970 and formed an alliance with the Khmer Rouge while in exile. The coalition of rebels forming the GRUNK (Gouvernement Royal d’Union Nationale du Kampuchéa) accuses the Committee of interfering and orders it to leave the country on 15 March 1975. On 16 April, they refuse the offer of surrender of the Prime Minister in Office, Long Boret, communicated by the ICRC. On entering the capital the following day, the communists violate the neutral area established by the Committee at the Phnom Hotel. After its forced departure, Geneva loses all contact with the country and is unable to continue working with the Cambodian Red Cross chaired by Ieng Thirith, the wife of the new Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, who will be subsequently arrested for crimes against humanity. Accused of inertia by the Daily Mirror correspondent John Pilger, who blames the organization for failing to denounce a genocide, the ICRC is slow to uncover the scale of the massacres committed by the Pol Pot regime. The Committee is forced to wait until the dictatorship is overthrown by the Vietnamese army in December 1978 to begin sending supplies to survivors. Its operations are impeded by the ill will of the occupying power. Demanding 150,000 dollars for flying over the southern part of their territory, the authorities in Hanoi force the ICRC to transport its relief supplies from Thailand in Western military aircrafts lent and piloted by American veterans of the Vietnam War. Put in place by the occupying forces, the Heng Samrin government in power in Phnom Penh opposes the provision of relief supplies to the hinterland and to Cambodian refugees at the Thai border. The government decides to expel the ICRC in September 1979. While waiting for a written order that fails to materialize, the Geneva Committee remains present in the capital without renewing its staff because of a lack of visas. By sheer patience and dogged determination, the ICRC is eventually able to convince the authorities of Kampuchea that their obstruction will not prevent humanitarian organizations in Thailand from providing relief supplies to the refugee camps infiltrated by the Khmer Rouge, who continue to fight against the Vietnamese Army. As part of an agreement signed on 13 October 1979, Geneva is authorized to set up an airlift from Bangkok via Saigon. Under the pressure of UN agencies, local authorities, the US embassy in Thailand and NGOs such as World Relief, the ICRC begins to distribute seeds aimed at facilitating the reconstruction of the Cambodian countryside and at ensuring self-sufficiency in rural areas. However, the operation begins too late, just as the rainy season makes the roads impassable and prevents the transportation of supplies. In addition, the ICRC is not authorized to monitor the distribution of seeds and is forced to rely on the reports supplied in theory by the Kampuchea Red Cross but never delivered. The Kampuchea Red Cross is in fact a political organization aimed primarily at claiming the seats still held by Pol Pot’s representatives at the United Nations and the League of Red Cross Societies. Chaired by a woman who was a victim of the Khmer Rouge, Pech Pirun, its objective is not to prevent the authorities from laying their hands on humanitarian aid. Returning from a trip to Cambodia in November 1979, the head of ICRC operations Jean-Pierre Hocke reports that 97% of the 50,000 tons of supplies transported from Thailand are rotting in warehouses in Phnom Penh and the docks of Kompong Som. Heng Samrin’s government prefers to consolidate its social base through food aid and the local currency, i.e. rice, used to pay civil servants since the country was demonetized by Pol Pot. As noted by the journalist William Shawcross, misappropriations are widespread at all levels. For example, keen to control all humanitarian supplies and organizations, the Cambodian army uses ICRC vehicles under the pretext of escorting expatriates and guaranteeing their security. In 1985, the military expel the Swiss Red Cross, which works in the Kampong Cham hospital since 1981 and which is accused of providing intelligence to the American secret services on the grounds that one of their surgeons had asked a Vietnamese officer to leave the operating room because he was smoking a cigarette. While it is able to access a small number of prisoners of war in 1990, the ICRC is unable to conduct large-scale operations before a ceasefire is signed between the government and the armed resistance movements on 1 May 1991. While it begins to work in the regions of Pursat in 1988 and Battambang and Banteay Meanchey in 1989, the organization is forced to wait until 1992 to access border areas in the north of the country, where the Khmer Rouge are established in Pailin and Sisophon. The peace agreements of 23 October 1991 enable the Committee to cover the entire country just as the United Nations send Blue Helmets to monitor the elections that are due to be held in May 1993. The ICRC delegations in Bangkok and Phnom Penh are authorized to communicate by radio and to cross the border by land via Poipet on a road linking Aranyaprathet in Thailand and Sisophon in Cambodia after being reopened for the first time since 1975. Invited to take part in the repatriation of refugees, the Geneva Committee is also rewarded for its thirteen years of efforts by an agreement reached on 11 January 1992 allowing it to visit both military and civilian detainees, an authorization subsequently extended in March 1998 to include military camps, gendarmeries and police stations.

-Since 1976, Lebanon: the ICRC, which had already intervened briefly during a Druze rebellion in August 1958, sets up relief operations amid the escalating civil war. Despite the reluctance of Geneva, the Committee delegate in Beirut, Laurent Marti, commits funds as a preventive measure justified by the end of yet another ceasefire in January 1976. The following August, the institution negotiates a truce to evacuate the injured from the Palestinian refugee camp of Tall-al-Zaatar near Beirut. However, one of its teams is attacked by snipers. In addition, the militias disregard the Red Cross emblem in the Bekaa plain, where the ICRC is forced to suspend its medical operations between March and August 1976. Ever increasing numbers of vehicles, food, and medicine are stolen. The ICRC, one of whose drivers was seriously injured during a heavy attack on a medical convoy on 23 May 1975, is soon faced with a general deterioration of security. On 29 March 1978, one of its expatriates, Louis Gaulis, is killed in an ambush on his car. The Lebanese Red Cross is even more severely affected: two first-aid workers and one nurse are killed when their ambulance is caught in the midst of fighting in Zahlé on 3 April 1981. According to Daphne Reid and Patrick Gilbo, the total number of casualties suffered by the society amount to 11 deaths and 81 injured throughout the period. The difficulty for the ICRC is also to protect its neutrality in the eyes of the belligerents, particularly in the capital, where the Christians of the east are in conflict with the Muslims of the west. With its delegation in West Beirut, the Committee is forced to maintain a presence in all camps and rebalances its position by opening offices in the district of Achrafieh in the East, where the fighting reaches a peak in September 1978. On the Muslim side dominated by a Sunni majority, the ICRC is forced to provide special care to the Shiite minority following the closure of a field hospital specifically set up for this community in Southern Beirut in February 1976 and transferred in June to safer neighborhoods in the western part of the city. In June 1982, ‘Operation Peace for Galilee’ compels Geneva to negotiate access with the Israeli army, which forms an alliance with the Christian militias and invades Lebanon in order to force the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) out of Beirut. Adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 19 June and 29 July 1982, Resolutions 512 and 513 request the free passage of ICRC convoys and the end of the Beirut blockade. However, such commitments fail to prevent significant violations of international humanitarian law. The Israelis continue to attack civilians. One of their shells kills a member of the crew on Flora, an ICRC ship evacuating injured PLO fighters in the port of Jounieh in August 1982. The Christian Phalangists massacre the medical staff of two hospitals of the Palestinian Red Crescent in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, where the Geneva Committee finds some 2,000 bodies in September 1982. With two first-aid workers killed in 1985, two in 1986 and one in 1987, the Lebanese Red Cross is also not immune to attacks. One collaborator is killed during a medical evacuation in Beirut on 7 February 1984, while three injured patients are executed in one of its ambulances on 8 April 1988. Although the Israeli army begins to withdraw from the capital in September 1983, the situation remains tense. In November and December 1983, the escalating fighting between Lebanese factions forces the ICRC to establish a safe haven in Tripoli and to organize the evacuation toward Beirut and Saida of the Christians who sought refuge in Deir el Qamar to escape Druze attacks in the Chouf. Amid such tension, the Committee refuses to engage in any operations beyond its official mandate. Called on to negotiate with hijackers who diverted a TWA (Trans World Airlines) plane toward Beirut airport on 14 June 1985, Geneva abstains from engaging in a politically-charged process of mediation. Nonetheless, a number of ICRC delegates board the plane to obtain the release of three hostages and provide medical care to other passengers during a stopover in Algiers. In Lebanon, the prevailing insecurity forces the Committee to take all necessary precautions as two of its vehicles are bombed on 11 June 1983 and another is destroyed by a mine on 23 December 1983, without casualties. Poor traffic conditions also cause a number of serious car accidents, for example killing one nurse, Pernette Zehnder, in Beirut on 18 October 1987. After the brief kidnapping of three delegates in 1985, expatriates continue to receive death threats. On 18 November 1988, Peter Winkler is captured in Saida, probably in retaliation against the imprisonment by Switzerland of a terrorist, Ali Mohamed Hariri, who had hijacked a plane and killed one passenger before being arrested in Geneva. The ICRC therefore decides to entrust its operations to local employees and withdraws its seventeen delegates stationed in Lebanon. Despite the release of Peter Winkler after thirty days of detention, the situation barely improves after the return of the Committee in February 1989. On 6 October 1989, two employees, Emmanuel Christen and Elio Erriquez, are kidnapped in Saida. Performing a symbolic withdrawal, the ICRC denies that it is prepared to pay a ransom or to negotiate an exchange. However, the liberation of its two expatriates on 8 and 13 August 1990 coincides with the release by the French government, on 27 July 1990, of Anis Naccache, who had killed two people while attempting to assassinate the former Iranian Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris. Southern Lebanon, where all of the kidnappings occur, remains one of the most inaccessible regions for the ICRC. Still occupied by the Israeli army (Tsahal), it is largely unaffected by the Taef agreements signed in October 1989 that pacify the rest of the country. The fighting continues to oppose the Shiites of the ‘Party of God’, Hezbollah, supported by Iran, and the Christians of the SLA (South Lebanon Army), backed by Israel. Until the withdrawal of Tsahal in May 2000, tensions remain high and are further revived by the ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath’ in April 1996. Access to victims remains difficult. The ICRC is forced to wait ten years before entering the Khiam detention center, created in 1984 and held by SLA auxiliaries. The Hezbollah fighters are barely more open to dialogue or negotiation. While it is able to conduct unsupervised interviews with a handful of SLA militiamen held by militants of the Party of God before the withdrawal of Tsahal, the Geneva Committee is denied access to three Israeli soldiers and one civilian caught by the movement in October 2000. The release of the civilian and the return of the bodies of the three soldiers are only achieved as a result of a mediation by the German government three years later. The ICRC is also denied access to two Israeli soldiers imprisoned by the Hezbollah in July 2006, whose kidnapping triggers a war between the two countries the following month. The situation is marginally better in other regions of Lebanon, where a decree passed in October 2002 officially confirms the right of the Geneva Committee to visit all prisoners held by the government. After having repatriated a small number of Lebanese prisoners of war and civilians from Israel, the ICRC negotiates a truce to evacuate the civilian victims of a conflict with an Islamist group, Fatah Al-Islam, in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr Al-Bared near Tripoli in May 2007. However, two volunteers of the Lebanese Red Cross, Boulos Maamari and Haitham Suleiman, are killed by Fatah Al-Islam mortar fire on 11 June 2007. Seeking to mediate between the army and the militiamen, a Muslim religious official, Sheikh Mohammed Hajj, is injured when the Palestinian Red Crescent vehicle in which he was traveling is targeted within the camp.

-1977, Switzerland: the ICRC supervises the revision of the Geneva Conventions with the adoption, on 8 June 1977, of two additional protocols concerning the protection ‘of victims of international armed conflicts’ and ‘victims of non-international armed conflicts’. The humanitarian institution was initially reluctant to endorse a project that might have enabled states to challenge the provisions of 1949, to politicize the debate and to be discharged of their obligations by transferring them to the Committee. As a result, during discussions beginning in February 1974, the ICRC refused to act as a substitute to compel governments to provide a minimum level of protection to foreign nationals from an enemy country. In the absence of a Convention dealing specifically with prisoners of conscience, the Committee opted to work on the addition of specific objectives such as the prohibition of the deportation of civilians and attacks against non-military targets. Therefore no attempt was made by the negotiators to extend international humanitarian law to forbid the use of nuclear weapons. In the same vein, they dismissed two draft articles providing for the creation of information centers about missing civilians. The ICRC was in fact unable to resolve the differences between the representatives of the 121 governments invited to Geneva along with eleven national liberation movements, including three movements accredited by the League of Arab States and the Organization of African Unity. The United States, in particular, refuse to ratify the second Protocol. According to them, it favors terrorists and guerrilla fighters at the expense of government forces, who are still required to wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from civilian populations. In theory, insurgents may invoke the protection provided by the Geneva Conventions if they are captured bearing weapons and provided they are operating under the orders of a chain of command and belong to an organization that complies with the laws of war. In practice, however, the process of identifying such combatants represents an extremely complex process compared to common law criminals. The additional protocols mainly have the advantage of ratifying the increased responsibilities of the ICRC in favor of detainees held during internal conflicts. Endorsed at the twenty-third International Red Cross conference held in Bucharest from 15 to 21 October 1977, the new mandate of the Committee is largely based on the early experiences of the Geneva Committee in Russia in 1918, Hungary in 1919 and Ireland in 1923. While prison visits are hardly a novelty for the ICRC, they have increased significantly over time – with 215 visits in 1970 compared to just 30 in 1962 and 40 in 1958. In total, the Geneva delegates were able to assist 170,000 prisoners of conscience between 1970 and 1973, almost twice the number of prisoners (100,000) visited between 1958 and 1970. The activities of the Committee in this area developed significantly as a result of the situation in Latin America, a continent largely unknown to the ICRC in the early days of the organization. After gaining selective access to political detainees on an ad hoc basis in Guatemala and Colombia during unrest in July 1954 and May 1969 respectively, the humanitarian institution intervened in Bolivia in February 1970. In the wake of the coup d’état of Colonel Hugo Banzer Suárez in La Paz, the ICRC was even authorized between August 1971 and October 1972 to assist prisoners of conscience undergoing interrogations and before sentencing, when the risk of torture was highest. In Argentina, the organization also began to visit political detainees on a regular basis from July 1971. But unlike Chile, where it was quickly authorized to provide aid to prisoners of conscience after the putsch of General Augusto Pinochet, the ICRC had to wait for nine months before gaining unsupervised access to opponents detained following the coup d’état of General Jorge Rafael Videla in March 1976. It took another year until the Committee could effectively conduct new inspections in the prisons of La Planta, Rawson, Villa Devoto and Caseros in December 1977, before eventually suspending all operations between December 1978 and February 1979.

-1978-1991, Nicaragua: on a continent that it knows little about, the ICRC begins to set up an airlift and to transport relief supplies in a country where it had already visited political prisoners in April 1971, February 1967, June 1959 and January 1955. During an operation in which two local Red Cross volunteers are killed on 14 September 1978, the Committee takes care of the injured, buries the dead, provides medical supplies to hospitals and assists civilians in combat zones opposing the Sandinistas guerrillas and the government of Anastasio Somoza in Leone and Esteli. Violations of international humanitarian law are rife on both sides. Chaired by Ismael Reyes, who succeeded a bishop from Giru Mons, Mgr Donaldo Chavez Nunez, the CRN (Cruz Roja Nicaraguense) suffers the loss of 17 first aid workers until the fall of the dictatorship on 19 July 1979. The victory of the Sandinistas fails to resolve the matter. Detained until their release as a result of amnesties granted in March 1989 and February 1990, the former soldiers of the National Guard accuse the ICRC of handing them over to the enemy when it asked them to put down their arms to gain access to safe havens created at the initiative of the Nicaraguan Red Cross and neutralized by Geneva in hospitals, churches, embassies and the free trade zone of the airport in Managua. The conflict with the Sandinistas soon resumes. After fighting in Zelaya Department in February 1982, the ICRC is authorized in November to provide assistance to the Miskito Indians expelled from the border regions of Honduras and grouped in the Tasba Pri camps. In the rest of the country, the organization is forced to limit its activities to visiting political prisoners brought to justice, and is unable to access suspects temporarily detained in police stations or military barracks, where the risk of abuse and torture is highest. Under the chairmanship of the cardiologist Gonzalo Ramirez Morales between 1984 and 1988, the Nicaraguan Red Cross also seeks to help victims and becomes involved in the national reconciliation commission established by the government in September 1987 to initiate negotiations with the armed opposition. The situation subsequently improves following the peace agreements of August 1989 and the multi-party elections held in February 1990. The ICRC finally closes its delegation in Managua in December 1991.

-Since 1978, Chad: a new delegate, Laurent Marti, is dispatched to Ndjamena by the ICRC to assist the victims of the escalating civil war. In the north of the country, the Geneva envoy meets with the rebels of Goukouni Oueddei and gains their trust by inviting twenty armed fighters to board a Committee aircraft on the Faya-Largeau airstrip. Between February and April 1978, Laurent Marti is able to secure the release and transportation of approximately 2,500 government soldiers caught by the guerrilla forces. As the fighting nears the capital city, the ICRC is forced to negotiate a truce to send supplies to hospitals and to provide assistance to the injured in Ndjamena in February 1979. The Committee also convinces rival factions to agree to the release of prisoners of war and civilian detainees. However, the operations are postponed sine die. While the forces under the control of Goukouni Oueddei and Hissène Habré fight for power and devastate the capital city in March 1980, Laurent Marti returns to Chad to establish a safe haven in Ndjamena and to negotiate the distribution of relief supplies in both camps. However, his efforts are unsuccessful. Attacked by rivals, the ICRC sides with Goukouni Oueddei and must wait until September to enter the areas where the forces of Hissène Habré are surrounded and defeated. Because of the general ill will of all parties, the Committee is forced to suspend its operations between October and December 1980 before reopening its delegation in Ndjamena in March 1981 and resuming operations within the country. In a moment of respite, the ICRC eventually decides to withdraw from Chad after concluding that the situation is a matter of development rather than emergency aid. The organization begins to hand over its medical programs to Catholic missions and to organizations such as Médecins sans Frontières in October 1981. However, in June 1982, the ICRC returns to Chad when fighting resumes and the victorious forces of Hissène Habré enter Ndjamena. On this occasion, the Committee seeks to provide assistance to the victims of a war that eventually escalates in December 1986 into an international conflict following the military intervention of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi alongside the GUNT (Gouvernement d’union nationale de transition) led by Goukouni Oueddei in the north, on the Libyan border. The warring factions fail once again to comply with the Geneva Conventions. In the north, the GUNT and Libya prevent the ICRC from accessing all prisoners of war. Opened in November 1983, the Committee delegation in Bardaï is soon forced to suspend its operations in May 1984. The situation is no better in Ndjamena. Because Colonel Muammar Gaddafi denies having sent his army to Chad, Hissène Habré’s government decides not to grant a prisoner of war status to captured Libyan soldiers. In addition, it does not inform Geneva about the 2,000 Libyan fighters in its hold, over half of whom are repatriated after the fall of the regime in December 1990. Last but not least, Hissène Habré’s government impedes the Committee’s relief operations on a number of occasions, especially between August 1983 and February 1984. From October 1987, Ndjamena prevents the institution from accessing the northern regions of Fada, Faya-Largeau and Tibesti, which continue to be affected by fighting with GUNT rebels. When the situation changes following the exile of Hissène Habré and the accession to power of Idriss Déby in 1990, the ICRC is only able to gain access to political prisoners in 1995. The Committee subsequently returns to the eastern part of the country to assist Sudanese refugees fleeing the conflict that began in Darfur in 2003. The situation remains volatile and the Committee is forced to suspend its operations after the kidnapping of a French agronomist working for the ICRC, Laurent Maurice, in the village of Kawa on 9 November 2009. After being detained in Darfur by a group known as the African Eagles of Liberation (Aigles de Libération de l’Afrique), the prisoner is eventually released on 6 February 2010.

-1979-1980, Thailand: the ICRC assists Cambodians crossing the border in order to escape the fall of the Pol Pot regime and the invasion of their country by Vietnamese forces. The refugees are recruited by the Khmer Rouge and rejected by the Thai army, which turn back 43,000 of them in Preah Vihear. With the agreement of his superiors, the ICRC delegate in Bangkok, Francis Amar, protests against these expulsions. However, he is quickly summoned to return to Geneva in June 1979 since the Committee is keen to spare Thailand, a country that supports the Khmer Rouge to maintain a buffer zone against the Vietnamese occupying forces in Cambodia. The aim of the ICRC is also to soften the authorities of Kampuchea, which oppose the distribution of food aid to refugees turned guerrillas. On 26 September 1979, the Committee and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) announce too hastily that they have reached an agreement to begin relief operations on both sides of the border. Their press release draws the ire of the Heng Samrin regime in power in Phnom Penh, which immediately denies the authorization. The same day, a Hanoi daily newspaper, Nhan Dan, denounces ‘the badly intended interpretation whereby ICRC and UNICEF said that PRK (People’s Republic of Kampuchea) accepted the principle of "aid to both sides". The imperialists and international reactionaries have been resorting to a new calumniating trick against the PRK charging the latter with refusing or hampering humanitarian assistance to the Kampuchean people. Trying to show off themselves as humane, they put out the so called "assistance to both sides"… But all these allegations are in fact nothing but a smoke screen to… deceive world public opinion at large… legalize the supply of the Pol Pot remnants… and interfere in the internal affairs of the Kampuchean people’. As a result, the ICRC seeks to keep a low profile to avoid compromising the pursuit of its operations in Cambodia. Hence the Committee conceals the declarations of a defector of the Heng Samrin regime, Hieng Mea Nuont, who, once in exile in Thailand, denounces the misappropriation of Western relief supplies by the Vietnamese occupying forces – a problem with which he is familiar having chaired a government committee set up to receive humanitarian aid in Phnom Penh. Worse still, the ICRC fuels the dynamics of war by supplying refugee camps run by the various rival factions: the Khmer Rouge in Sa Kaeo, Nong Pu, Ta Prik, Phnom Chat, Klong Kai Theong then Khao Din; the Sihanoukists of the National Liberation Movement of Kampuchea under the control of Kong Sileah in Nong Chan; and the partisans of Lon Nol with the Khmer Angkor Movement of Commander In Sakhan in Nong Samet. Although the Geneva Committee requests the containment of armed groups in separate bases, the distinction between civilians and combatants is impossible to draw. In addition, the organization is not always able to control the distribution of supplies, a task sometimes entrusted to vague representatives of ‘cooperatives’ in the Khmer Rouge camps, where the ICRC has no access to the Cambodian side of the border. Because they cannot be resold on the black market in regions with no cash economy, food rations are primarily used to feed combatants who tax and racket the population on the grounds of providing protection against the Vietnamese. The controversy is further complicated by the fact that the Khmer Rouge, who committed a genocide, are the only force truly fighting against Hanoi and hold the most heavily militarized camps. However, other sites in Thailand are also under the control of mafias and commanders who use them to develop a black market and to resell the supplies provided by the World Food Program. For example, Mak Moun is ruled by a warlord, Van Saren, who made his fortune smuggling teak and is eventually assassinated by the Thai army in April 1980. In a camp numbering between 50,000 and 150,000 refugees, the ICRC distributes food to 300,000 people in November 1979, with the surplus falling into the hands of traffickers. According to internal reports quoted by Linda Mason and Roger Brown, 89% of the rice and 89% of the oil destined for Mak Moun are misappropriated. At Nong Chan, 49% of the rice and 46% of the water are directly levied by the combatants. The effect of such misappropriations is not merely to extend the war since their economic and military impact also causes significant conflicts between the camps. For example, on 30 December 1979, the men of Van Saren, deprived of aid, attack refugees in Nong Chan, where the distribution of free food resulted in a drop in the price of rice. The provision of supplies to combatants draws the attention of the Vietnamese, who cross the border on 22 June 1980, bomb a Red Cross hospital and briefly kidnap an ICRC employee, Pierre Perrin, on 26 June. The subsequent fighting between the Thai army and the Khmer Rouge results in the death of 400 refugees. Overwhelmed by the events, the ICRC decides in July 1980 to refocus its activities on the provision of medical aid. Unable to distinguish between combatants and civilians, the Committee suspends all food distributions in the Khmer Rouge camps, in particular in Sa Kaeo, where UNICEF provides only basic relief to women and children under the age of sixteen. In April 1980, Geneva officially stops supplying Mak Moun, where an operation to move all occupants to Khao-I-Dang begins in December 1979. However, there remain significant difficulties. Determined to help their Khmer Rouge allies against the Vietnamese, the Thai authorities threaten to retaliate by prohibiting all humanitarian operations in the camps, while Phnom Penh continues to oppose the principle of cross-border operations. The outcome is generally negative. Linda Mason and Roger Brown note that ‘neither ICRC or UNICEF had expertise in large-scale food distribution… The power that allowed to construct empires resulted directly from the mismanaged distribution system which reinforced the strength of the most irresponsible leaders at the border. The behaviour of Van Saren and In Sakhan was a predictable outgrowth of a system devoid of accountability and control… The Joint Mission unsuccessfully attempted to reform the distribution system on a number of occasions. Each attempt was staged in isolation. Upon the failure of one attempt, months would pass before the next. The efforts were not well planned and seemed designed to fail… With every failure, relief workers became more discouraged and less capable of seeing the problem as being rooted in the system itself rather than in the corrupt Khmer military leaders who exploited the system. Many became bitter and outwardly hostile toward the Khmer leadership. Their bitterness and suspicion included not only the powerful soldiers, but all Khmer people in positions of authority. As a result, relief workers grew unwilling to entrust Khmer workers with responsibility. Relief workers tried to squeeze the military and civilian leaders out of the relief program instead of implementing systems which would use their resources yet make them accountable’. The ICRC was ultimately never able to prevent Thai soldiers and Cambodian armed groups from controlling aid and its recipients. At the time of the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in October 1989, the resumption of fighting will indicate that the Khmer Rouge have lost none of their hold over refugees, who will often be compelled by military force to return to their country. After the Paris peace agreements of October 1991 and the official closure of the Site 8 and Khao-I-Dang camps in January and March 1993 respectively, the ICRC will eventually facilitate the repatriation of Cambodians and make plans to leave Thailand.

- Comments -

1) The Mission
-The ICRC’s mission, initially limited to the wounded in armies in the field, was progressively extended to prisoners of war, political prisoners and, finally, to civilian victims of armed conflicts in general. The transition was not a smooth one. Concerned with its primary function, the Committee first wanted to focus solely on wounded soldiers. To avoid confusion during the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, for example, it chose to establish a separate office in Bale specifically to deal with captured soldiers, under an ephemeral green cross emblem . Because the case was outside of the scope of Geneva, the 1874 Brussels Declaration and the Hague Conference of 1899 also planned to create new national bodies to assist prisoners of war. It was the 1914-1918 conflict, however, that finally led the ICRC to fully assume the extent of its mandate de facto, well before these actions were legally endorsed by the Geneva Conventions adopted in 1949. The First World War and its repercussions also led to the Committee’s involvement in other humanitarian areas. In October 1914, the ICRC’s Central Agency for Prisoners of War set up a civilian department which had around 1,200 employees in November 1918, most of whom were volunteers (including the French writer Romain Rolland). This situation resulted from the fact that civilian and military prisoners were mixed in camps run by French and German forces. Consequently, argued the ICRC, all adult men should be treated as prisoners-of-war because civilians could have been drafted anyway. While the ICRC’s arguments were only partially successful, the organisation then took advantage of peace to extend its humanitarian activities. It began assisting political prisoners in Russia from 1918 onwards. The following year, it also agreed to take care of children by repatriating Russian orphans to Stanislav. But these advances were not formalised until a later date. While the Bale experiment did not last after 1871, for instance, the CTA (Central Tracing Agency) of 1914 remained an autonomous enterprise until its absorption by the ICRC in 1982.

-Extremely cautious and legalistic by nature, the Geneva Committee encountered many difficulties extracting itself from the very narrow framework imposed by its mandate. Unlike other aid organisations, it actually played a legal role, and risked jeopardizing its humanitarian status if it bypassed national sovereignties and acted without governmental authorisation . Crossing borders illegally, for example, would amount to flouting the rules of the Geneva Conventions that the Committee itself had helped establish and which the states were required to follow. To be allowed to intervene without formal approval, the ICRC therefore had to claim a “right of humanitarian initiative” that, on 28 August 1930, was included in its statutes of 10 March 1921 as modified on 12 October 1928, 21 June 1973, 1 May 1974, 14 September 1977, 29 April 1982 and 20 January 1988. Theoretically, this enabled the Committee to act independently of biased Red Cross societies that refused to seek its assistance during conflicts in their country. It also allowed the ICRC to intervene in rebel areas with political entities that were not recognised by the international community or that had not signed the Geneva Conventions. This was very useful during civil wars or independence struggles. Considering that the ratification of the Geneva Conventions bound whole states, including rebel zones, the ICRC could thus circumvent governments’ opposition to its relief operations in Iraqi Kurdistan , Eritrea or Southern Angola during the 1970s for example. Occasionally, the Committee had insufficient time to get operations off the ground and its humanitarian initiatives were forgotten in history. In April 1950, during the independence war of the ephemeral Moluccas Republic on Ambon Island, for instance, the ICRC tried in vain to deliver food supplies to the rebel zone and was ready to violate the Indonesian blockade to do so . After seeking from Jakarta a guarantee that its plane would not be attacked by the army, the crew was diverted at Koepang, in the Indonesian part of Timor. The ICRC finally gave up on this project as its team arrived too late, the insurgents having already been defeated.

-Beyond the more stringent aspects of the Geneva doctrine, the humanitarian “initiatives” of the ICRC relied heavily on the personal qualities of its delegates in the field. In Hungary during the Second World War, Jean de Bavier and Friedrich Born saved the honour of the institution by trying to protect Jews despite the restrictions in the organisation’ s mandate. On the other hand, in his autobiography, Nelson Mandela tells of how unimpressed he was by the Geneva envoy to his prison at Robben Island, a white conservative Rhodesian. Similarly, explains David Forsythe, an ICRC delegate in Sudan refused to allow a little girl who needed urgent medical attention to board his plane, under the pretext that she was not war wounded and did not come within the framework of the organisation’s mission .

-Understanding the Committee’s mandate in all its complexity requires a detailed look at the different components of the Geneva Conventions. The ICRC, a specialist in emergencies and wars , is mainly concerned with developing international humanitarian law. Its aim is to protect the emblems of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, to promote training in health and safety, to assist civilian and military prisoners, to coordinate exchanges of captives, to transmit messages to and reunite family members separated by armed conflicts , to distribute aid packages and, more unusually, to mediate, for example to facilitate a truce or the release of hostages. Each of these activities deserves an explanation.
-Historically, the ICRC’s first objective is not to send relief, as shown in the media, but to ensure legal protection for conflict victims thanks to the Geneva Conventions, which are supposedly universal. In Europe, notes Martha Finnemore, it has dramatically contributed to changing and improving the laws governing interstate wars and protecting civilian populations. Hence James Pattison now suggests that the ICRC should initiate a new international convention to regulate peace operations and military interventions conducted as per the United Nations’ resolution on the “responsibility to protect” victims. According to him, this framework would help to define “just wars” and, for instance, compel blue helmets to target voluntary militias and genocidal groups instead of child soldiers or conscripts who are recruited by force. Meanwhile, the role of the ICRC is still to disseminate the Geneva Conventions, and guarantee their application where possible. Practically speaking, this is no easy task. The articles of the Conventions are very general and their interpretation is made even more difficult by the lack of international standards in this domain. In his study of some 100 reports written by ICRC delegates about prisoner-of-war camps in Germany between 1940 and 1945, Vasilis Vourkoutiotis shows that their requirements change over time and became less and less stringent as food shortages began to have their effect on the country. Today, prisoners are still subject to different conditions of detention according to the local living standards . 
-Equally obscure in the media is the second major thrust of the Committee’s actions: visits to civilian or military prisoners. There have been some particularly impressive developments in this area. The ICRC has not always been able to carry out this part of its mandate. This was particularly true during the Second World War. In the first place, the Committee was restricted to assisting military prisoners and not civilians. Also, it only had access to camps on solid ground. Not until the Falklands War in May-July 1982 was it authorised to visit prisoners of war held at sea. Following this conflict, Argentinean forces captured by the British were repatriated by the ICRC during an operation involving some 11,000 soldiers and marines. The extension of the Committee’s mandate to civilian prisoners is fairly recent, and dates back to the early 1970s. Since then, the ICRC has had access to many military and political prisoners: 70,000 in 1975, 18,000 in 1976, 17,800 in 1977, 41,000 in 1978, 7,100 in 1979, 42,800 in 1980, 44,000 in 1981, 86,400 in 1982, 35,500 in 1983, 58,000 in 1984, 30,000 in 1985, 84,800 in 1990, 154,000 in 1991, 95,000 in 1992, 143,600 in 1993, 99,000 in 1994, 146,600 in 1995, 172,500 in 1996, 200,000 in 1997, 212,100 in 1998, 225,300 in 1999, 216,600 in 2000, 346,800 in 2001, 448,100 in 2002, 469,600 in 2003, 571,500 in 2004, 528,600 in 2005 and 478,300 in 2006. As these numbers increased, the Committee extended the geographic coverage of its interventions by carrying out inspections in 250 detention locations in 60 countries in 1970, 154 in 28 in 1975, 244 in 22 in 1976 and 1977, 400 in 80 in 1980, 523 in 30 in 1982, 614 in 31 in 1983, 700 in 34 in 1984, 719 in 37 in 1986, 522 in 27 in 1987, 830 in 36 in 1988, 839 in 45 in 1989, 1, 327 in 42 in 1990, 2,000 in 49 in 1991, 2,355 in 54 in 1992, 2,367 in 55 in 1993 and in 1994, 2,282 in 58 in 1995, 2,100 in 52 in 1996, 1,680 in 56 in 1997, 1,546 in 59 in 1998, 1,726 in 60 in 1999, 1,651 in 65 in 2000, 1,988 in 72 in 2001, 2,007 in 75 in 2002, 1,923 in 80 in 2003, 2,435 in 80 in 2004, 2,594 in 76 in 2005 and 2,577 in 71 in 2006.

-Regarding prisoners of conscience, the activities of Amnesty International and the ICRC are to a certain extent complementary. The former denounces the causes of suffering; the latter works on alleviating the symptoms. One follows the trials, questions the motives behind the incarceration and sometimes demands the release of suspects; the other works in prisons and only deals with detention conditions. With several rare exceptions, ICRC interviews generally occur without witnesses so that the prisoners are protected from possible retaliation by their jailers. According to a study by Jacques Moreillon dealing with the period 1958-1970, these visits result from the Committee’s initiatives as well as requests by governments , international organisations or, in 40% of cases, opposition parties. Unlike Amnesty International, which used to limit its mission in this regard, the ICRC even provides assistance to prisoners of conscience who have resorted to violence: the Irish and the Basque terrorists of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and the ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) in the past; the Islamic fundamentalists of al-Qaida today.

-The ICRC’s role in providing supplies and medical aid to war victims is more widely heard of, but is only one of its many activities. Moreover, the ICRC claims no monopoly in this area, unlike in the domain of legal protection. Historically speaking, Geneva’s direct implication in aid programmes is quite recent. The Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) was the turning point that incited the Committee to equip itself with a real medical division. This happened as the organisation's shortfalls were brought to light after having to seek help from external volunteers like Bernard Kouchner. Subsequently, in 1975, the institution recruited a surgeon general, Doctor Rémi Russbach, who set up a powerful medical division that was relatively independent of the Director of Operations. At the time of the Cambodia crisis in 1980, the medical division had 1,112 professionals in the field compared with 511 in 1979 and 338 in 1981. As for the Operations Department, it was run from 1973 by a former car salesman from Nigeria, Jean-Pierre Hocke. He joined the ICRC at the start of the Biafran War and was personally responsible for modernising the logistics of the organisation. Ever since, the technicians sent abroad have become major players in the institution, like the delegates, doctors and jurists before them. The number of logisticians no less than tripled in 1999. As a result, the Committee greatly improved its reactivity by preparing ready-to-use aid kits and pre-packing medicine in warehouses near Geneva and Nairobi. Created in 1998, the logistics division was, for example, charged with the task of spearheading all supply activities: purchasing, storage and transport.

-While food aid or medical assistance operations are often spectacular, they must not overshadow less publicised missions that are just as important. First and foremost is the CTA (Central Tracing Agency). Its laborious task is to manage records of around 70 million names for the purpose of reuniting families scattered by hostilities, locating missing persons during conflicts and identifying civilian or military prisoners. The importance of these programmes was asserted during the thirtieth international conference of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies that took place in Geneva from 26 to 30 November 2007.

-Among the “forgotten” functions of the ICRC, we should also mention the activities that touch on diplomatic mediation, be it negotiating truces or freeing hostages. The Committee started to act as a go-between during World War One and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In January and July 1921, for example, Raymond Schlemmer, an ICRC delegate, was charged with negotiating the release of Bulgarian and Turkish hostages held by Greece. Later on, t he increase in hijackings in the early 1970s also led the Committee to get involved in matters that were not traditionally within its domain. On 26 October 1971, for example, the ICRC supervised an exchange of prisoners on the border between the People’s Republic of Congo and the Angolan enclave of Cabinda: Portuguese military and civilians were released after being taken captive when their planes were diverted at Brazzaville in June 1969 and at Pointe Noire in June 1971. From Geneva's perspective, such an intervention was not strictly within its mandate. The ICRC’s executive criticised its Regional Representative in the Middle East, André Rochat, for acting as intermediary for hijackers who had stormed an Olympic Airways flight at Athens airport on 22 July 1970. André Rochat, unwittingly caught up in events, negotiated the release of all passengers in exchange for the freedom of seven Palestinian militants held in Greek jails. On his return to Geneva, however, he was forced to resign for going beyond his mandate, giving in to terrorist blackmail and overriding the local justice system.

-From Columbia to Jordan or Peru, the ICRC’s involvement in hostage-taking situations now seems to be established. Concerned with preserving its neutrality, the Geneva Committee is careful not to get involved in political negotiations. If it was able to offer its services to allow the warring parties of Chiapas to meet in 1994, it nevertheless avoids playing the role of intermediary and proposing solutions to resolve a conflict. For this reason, it preferred to officially cut ties with the Henry-Dunant Institute. Initially a training centre created in 1965 by the Federation (IFRC) and the Swiss Red Cross, the Institute was rebuilt as a Foundation in 1998. Subsequently placed under the leadership of the Swiss government and renamed the “Henry-Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue”, this organisation aims to prevent conflicts and has offered to act as an intermediary in East Timor, the Philippines and the Central African Republic. From January to May 2003 in Indonesia, it monitored a ceasefire that was brutally broken off by the declaration of martial law in Aceh, the northern province of Sumatra where separatist groups were fighting. From January 2004, the Henry Dunant Foundation also tried to mediate in Darfur through a former governor of the region, Ahmed Diraige, who was unsuccessful in convincing the government in Khartoum to go to Geneva to negotiate with rebels.

-During the last decade, the ICRC has de facto enlarged its mandate. Ten years after the Chiapas uprising in 1994, for instance, it was supporting agriculture and cattle breeding to rehabilitate Indian families in Mexico. Moreover, protracted crisis led the Committee to take care of indigenous populations, and not only refugees. In Kenya in 2006, the ICRC thus funded water programmes in Lamu, a coastal town, not so far from war-torn Somalia. In the beginning of the 2000s, it also helped people who were expelled from slums in Zimbabwe. To prevent conflicts, eventually, it got involved with gangs in Haiti or pastoral groups in Kenya since 2004. Nowadays, the ICRC is used to deal with criminal organisations and drug traffickers, as in Afghanistan or Columbia. It is not anymore concerned by wars and emergencies only. Today, it claims to have a role to play in sustainable development, as advocated by Jean-François Mattei, chairman of the French Red Crosss, and Ian McAllister, an adviser to the IFRC. Hence the Committee took the risk to revive old conflicts with the Federation despite the famous report of Donald Tansley, who recommended that the organisation focuses on emergencies only.

-Ecology and environmental protection is another surprising activity the ICRC is involved in. Given the movement’s public health objectives , it is not particularly strange to see the local Red Cross or Red Crescent organisations supervising waste management programmes, cleaning up slums, fighting pollution or managing reforestation and natural resources. However, it is much more surprising to see the ICRC dealing with waste collection or the installation of latrines, even though this helps prevent epidemics and provides drinking water to urban populations at war, as was the case in Monrovia in 1991, Mogadishu in 1992, Kabul in 1994 and Jaffna in 1996. Likewise, the Committee undertook drainage maintenance operations in Sarajevo in 1994, Baghdad in 1995 and Grozny in 1996. But these kinds of activities were not limited to war-torn cities. ICRC-led programmes also started clearing waste in Cité Soleil, a Haitian slum in Port au Prince in January 2005, and in Lhokseumawe and Banda Aceh following floods in Indonesia in November 2000.

-Legally speaking, the Geneva Committee is particularly involved in ecological issues when there is a possibility that the environment may be used by warring parties. An observer at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, it criticised the pollution caused by Saddam Hussein's troops when they fired oil wells during the first Gulf Crisis in 1991. This was not the first time the Committee made its position on the environment known. In 1925, it drafted an agreement on chemical weapons. In 1976, it took part in the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques. In the late 1960s, it was particularly alarmed by the use of defoliants by the American army during the Vietnam War. These herbicides, more commonly recognised by the colours of their agents (orange, violet or pink), destroyed the natural vegetation that was used as camouflage and cover by the communists . Nearly a million people were affected according to the reunited Vietnamese Red Cross, which did not drop demands for compensation until 1995, when diplomatic relations were restored between Hanoi and Washington. In 1977, the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions also paved the way for further environmental protection clauses that did not exist previously . Admittedly, the ICRC was not behind such a move and its first draft failed to mention them. As Alexandre Kiss recalls, the initiative actually came from countries sensitive to environmental issues (Australia, Finland and the Democratic Republic of Germany, amongst others) and was strongly opposed by Great Britain, who stressed the importance of human rights above all. As a result, only the first Additional Protocol of 1977 prohibited the use of arms and any methods that would cause “prolonged, widespread or critical damage to the natural environment.” Legal developments in this matter were so limited that even damage “deliberately” inflicted on the environment during war times was recognised as simply “flouting the rules” rather than a “serious” breach of the Geneva Conventions. Moreover, articles 35 and 55 of the first Additional Protocol of 1977 only applied to periods of armed conflict and enemy territories. No provisions were made for environmental damage perpetrated by domestic forces (like burning forests or flooding regions) to delay the advance of enemy troops. Nor did provisions sanction using the environment to put pressure on or harm a neighbouring state during peacetime (by diverting water supplies, for example). Finally, provisions set no standards as to what constituted “serious” damage in time or space, despite the fact that damage to the environment can last for several generations.

-Despite these limits, one has to acknowledge the overall extension of the ICRC’s mandate to a wider and wider range of activities, including visits to political prisoners, medical assistance to all kinds of war victims, relief supplies to civilians, the reconstruction of rural economies and the protection of the environment. As the Red Cross increased its scope, so have its claims for universality, on both the legal and geographical levels.

-Geographically speaking, the expansion of the movement has been impressive. Initially focused on Europe and the United States until World War Two, it moved into former colonies as they gained independence and set up their own national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies. Reflecting this trend, the movement began to shift away from emergency relief towards development in order to provide basic health facilities, education and access to drinking water. The number of national Red Cross or Red Crescent societies recognised by the ICRC grew from 16 in 1867 to 38 in 1918, 64 in 1945, 66 in 1946, 74 in 1955, 80 in 1957, 84 in 1959, 85 in 1960, 87 in 1961, 90 in 1962, 102 in 1963, 104 in 1964, 106 in 1965, 108 in 1966, 109 in 1967, 111 in 1968, 112 in 1969, 114 in 1970, 115 in 1971, 116 in 1972, 121 in 1973, 122 in 1974, 125 in 1977, 126 in 1979, 128 in 1981, 131 in 1983, 135 in 1984, 137 in 1985, 144 in 1986, 145 in 1987, 147 in 1988, 149 in 1989, 153 in 1992, 161 in 1993, 163 in 1994, 169 in 1995, 170 in 1996, 171 in 1999, 177 in 2000, 178 in 2001, 182 in 2004, 183 in 2005 and 186 in 2006. Today, the Sultanate of Oman is one of the last countries in the world where neither the Red Cross nor the Red Crescent exists, and this is due to legal restrictions regarding private charitable activities.

-Since the end of the Second World War, the ICRC’s interventions have taken place in an increasing number of countries, mirrored by growth in the organisation's workforce abroad. The proportion of expatriate staff increased from 7% in 1945 to 26% in 1975, 50% in 1985 and 61% in 1995 and 2005. While activities were geographically limited during the 1960s, they later extended to developing countries, as they began to gain independence, and to the Soviet block, when it opened up to Westerners after 1989 . Between 1950 and 1980, the percentage of total aid devoted to Europe decreased from 88% to 0%. Meanwhile, total aid to Africa and Latin America increased from 0% to 33% and 15% respectively. The Nigerian Civil War in 1968 was a turning point for the ICRC. After this date, the institution began launching material aid programmes and no longer provided mere legal assistance. As a result, its organisational capacities became considerable. Today, it is common for the ICRC to be active in several countries at once. Theoretically, the ICRC can now operate across the entire planet, even in the most isolated regions. Africa still receives most aid, up to 30% in 1983, 50% in 1984, 78% in 1985, 75% in 1986, 62% in 1987, 55% in 1988, 35% in 1989, 34% in 1990, 43% in 1991, 67% in 1992, 57% in 1993, 58% in 1994, 35% in 1995, 39% in 1996, 22% in 1997, 43% in 1998, 29% in 1999, 42% in 2000, 40% in 2001, 38% in 2002, 37% in 2003, 43% in 2004, 42% in 2005 and 39% in 2006. Depending on the year, it is followed by the Middle East (21% in 1983, 13% in 1984, 7% from 1985 to 1987, 20% in 1988, 16% in 1989, 14% in 1990, 46% in 1991, 7% in 1992, 1% in 1993, 6% in 1994, 4% in 1995, 6% in 1996, 7% in 1997, 5% in 1998, 2% in 1999, 2% in 2000, 7% in 2001, 13% in 2002, 24% in 2003, 16% in 2004, 12% in 2005 and 20% in 2006), Latin America and the Caribbean (14% in 1983, 16% in 1984, 9% in 1985, 13% in 1986, 21% in 1987, 12% in 1988, 7% in 1989, 5% in 1990, 1% from 1991 to 1997, 15% in 1998, 4% in 1999 and 2000, 6% in 2001, 7% in 2002 and 6% in 2003), Asia and Pacific (13% in 1983, 11% in 1984, 6% in 1985, 5% in 1986, 10% in 1987, 13% in 1988, 11% in 1989, 18% in 1990, 4% in 1991, 3% in 1992, 2% in 1993, 6% in 1994, 7% in 1995, 14% in 1996, 22% in 1997, 3% in 1998, 11% in 1999, 12% in 2000, 17% in 2001, 26% in 2002, 17% in 2003, 16% in 2004, 26% in 2005 and 24% in 2006), Europe and Central Asia from 1992 to 1998, North America from 1999 and Latin America from 2004 (22% in 1983, 11% in 1984, 0% from 1985 to 1988, 31% in 1989, 9% in 1990, 6% in 1991, 22% in 1992, 39% in 1993, 30% in 1994, 54% in 1995, 40% in 1996, 28% in 1997, 34% in 1998, 53% in 1999, 40% in 2000, 17% in 2001, 16% in 2002, 13% in 2003, 20% in 2004, 15% in 2005, 13% in 2006).

-In addition to its operational capabilities, the ICRC has another role: promoting the Geneva Conventions. Its aim is to uphold a universally accepted set of humanitarian standards, even if it has not been able to establish a common understanding on how to apply them . The Committee has not limited its advocacy to states and governmental armies. It also attempted to make these standards known to rebel groups after the Nigerian Civil War in 1969, the assassination of two delegates in Rhodesia in 1978 and the negotiations for the ratification of the Additional Protocols of 1977. In this regard, t he ICRC’s first advocacy activities were in El Salvador from 1980, via radio and pamphlets . According to Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, two ICRC jurists, many of the Geneva Conventions have found their way into states’ common law and are even used by rebel movements. It is their opinion that basic humanitarian rules now apply to both civil and international wars. Some of these principles include distinguishing between civilians and combatants, prohibiting actions aimed at retaliation, protecting defenceless people or those who cannot fight, forbidding crimes of murder or rape, respecting the family, and recognising the specific needs of women, children, the elderly, the sick and invalid.

-However, the study of Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck is limited to states’ official positions and does not necessarily examine rebel movements. Moreover, their investigations are not concerned with finding out whether governments’ actions are mere declarations, or whether the Conventions have a chance of being really implemented through jurisprudence. They have not examined countries where serious and massive violations of the Geneva Conventions have been committed, for instance, Cambodia, Somalia, Congo-Kinshasa , Sudan, North Korea, Vietnam and Burundi. Finally, their conclusions do not reflect practices observed in the field and even contradict the ICRC's own findings. In the late 1990s, for example, the Greenberg Research Agency and the Geneva Committee carried out a survey of 1,005 people in Somalia. Barely 20% thought it was necessary to spare civilian lives, and only 8% were opposed to soldiers killing the elderly and children. To insist on the customary aspects of international humanitarian law proved dangerous in this regard. It aimed to encourage states and rebel groups to adopt the Geneva Conventions. But in Africa, for example, it compelled the ICRC to modify, adapt and translate its message to ensure its longevity in the form of proverbs or references to tradition. According to Simone Delorenzi, this experiment had limited success and simply highlighted the limits of international conventions that often lacked local cultural equivalents. In developed countries, it is also questionable whether the Geneva Conventions are universally recognised, not to mention applied. Kimberley Johnson and Kelly Kennedy mention one survey carried out on behalf of the American Defence Ministry. According to the results of this study, only 47% of soldiers and 38% of marines in Iraq in 2006 considered that non-combatants deserved dignity and respect.

-In fact, the ICRC's plans to operate on a universal level have always run up against opposition – whether because of the circumstances or because of nationalist interferences . Early examples of this are the pressures from France in 1867, Tsarist Russia in 1887, the United States in 1919 and Sweden and the Soviet Union in 1945 to introduce representatives of their Red Cross societies to t he Geneva Committee. The competition first came from Paris . When the World Fair was held in 1867, the French government claimed it was setting up a Red Cross museum in order to promote information on the movement’s activities. It then attempted to take over the Committee’s newsletter, the Bulletin international des sociétés de secours pour les militaires blessés , launched in 1869. After paying scant regard to the Geneva Conventions during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, France disparaged the authority of the ICRC and was a driving force behind the creation of the Red Cross League in Paris in 1919. Subsequently, the Committee was forced to justify its independence, pointing out that Switzerland’s neutral stance was a better guarantee of impartiality. To thwart French ambitions, it emphasized Geneva's advantages. Thanks to its position as a commercial crossroads and a haven for Protestants fleeing persecution in Catholic Europe, the city had developed an international character after forming distant alliances to avoid being taken over by the House of Savoy. Actually , explains François Bugnion, the relationship between Geneva and the Red Cross was beneficial for both parties: the ICRC’s presence contributed to the city's influence and dynamism. It was an important incentive for other organisations that later chose to set up their headquarters in Geneva, especially the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in 1951, the World Health Organisation in 1948 and, with British backing, the League of Nations in 1919, which incidentally the French opposed, preferring a Brussels base.

-Other flaws in the ICRC’s universal aspirations were soon visible. One notable example was the use of the Red Cross symbol itself. The Committee was based in a protestant stronghold, regarded as an important hub for preaching and spreading the evangelical faith. It was therefore difficult for it to break free of its religious background. While the ICRC’s president, Gustave Moynier, was a key member of Geneva’s p rotestant bourgeoisie, he took every care to portray a secular image. For example, he declined an invitation to attend a conference for religious charities in Austria in 1898. In 1877, the ICRC formally banned the use of the movement's emblem by the Rome-based Order of St. John. However, national societies at the time did not follow these restrictions. The Knights of Malta were an integral part of the Italian, Dutch and British Red Crosses, with representatives at an administrative level. In France, the Société de secours aux blessés militaires was led by papist aristocrats who were opposed to Republicans and Protestants. Catholic Bavaria and Austria had also hesitated to subscribe to a humanitarian project which was backed by Protestant Prussia. As for the Vatican state, it joined the Geneva Convention in 1868 hoping that Henry Dunant’s ideals would “further religion in the armed forces”. The Catholic clergy also assisted the first Latin American Red Cross societies. In Colombia, for example, the archbishop of Bogota helped set up and presided the Cruz Roja Colombiana. He carried on the work of Santiago Samper, a businessman, who had attempted to launch a relief organisation during a civil war in 1899 and who had only been able to work with rebels (t he Society was reconstituted in July 1915 by one of his associates, Joaquín Samper, with a Lieutenant Colonel, Luis Acevedo, and a D octor, Hipólito Machado ; it was recognised by the government in February 1916, then the army and the ICRC in March 1922, before working alongside the Colombian military when war broke out against Peru in September 1932). The protestants too were not inactive. According to Rainer Baudendistel, many of them worked for the Red Cross during the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1936, because missionaries were often the only ones to accept to live in the bush. The Swedish “ambulance”, in particular, tried to convert the population instead of treating the wounded.

-The founders and presidents of the ICRC were all practising Christians. Even if Henry Dunant's evangelism was not exactly compatible with the Calvinist prudence of Geneva's high society, he adopted an almost messianic attitude to spread his humanitarian vision of the world. In this, he was inspired by Book of Daniel, and he went on to write an essay entitled “Charlemagne's Empire Rebuilt”. Gustave Moynier was more of a realist, but still published a “Biblical Biography of St. Paul” in Lausanne in 1859. His successor, Max Huber, continued the organisation’s moralising trend. In his essay on the Good Samaritan and the Gospel published in 1943, he showed that a Christian could practice his faith and give meaning to it by helping the Red Cross. As for Cornelio Sommaruga, who headed the ICRC from 1987 to 1999, he was an Italian-speaking, practising Catholic, born in Rome. After his membership at the Committee ended in 2002, he became the president of a very conservative foundation called Moral Rearmament, known today as Initiatives of Change. Paul Grossrieder, who came to the ICRC in 1984 and managed the institution from 1998 to 2002, had also worked from 1975 to 1983 as an editor for the Vatican’s official journal, l’Osservatore Romano.

-The question of the Red Cross emblem is a good indicator of the limitations of the ICRC's universal aspirations. Anchored in the Christian tradition, t he symbol was problematic because of its obvious religious connotations . In addition , Geneva was never able to impose a single emblem on the national societies of the movement and it was repeatedly required to prevent its abuse by other religious or political movements. Historically, the “competition” came from the working class and Muslim groups, where generally there was no concern for neutrality. An “anarchist Red Cross” was set up in Great Britain and the United States between 1907 and 1918 to help political prisoners in Russia who were members of libertarian movements. Meanwhile, communists attempted to set up a “People's Red Cross” to help left-wing victims exclusively. In France, the Red Aid (Secours Rouge), subsequently named “ People’s Aid” (Secours populaire), had similar ambitions. Muslims were also quick to voice their opposition to the Red Cross emblem and create their own C rescent symbol. Various disparate initiatives appeared that had little to do with the national societies connected to the states. After a fleeting Green Cross appeared in Tunisia in the 1890s, the Ismailis in London created a “British Red Crescent” that operated between 1911 and 1948. Initially set up to provide assistance to Libyans being invaded by Italy, it was supported by the Aga Khan. It had no links to the ICRC and provided aid that was both material and spiritual in nature. Supplies and warm clothing were sent to Muslims only: Indian soldiers fighting on the European front in 1914, victims of the Greco-Turkish war in 1921 and Turkish populations in 1940. Ever since, other Red Crescent organisations have tried to outdo the ICRC. From 1977 onwards, Arab groups began to set up a rival institution called the ICIC ( Islamic Committee of the International Crescent) under the auspices of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Finally created in 1982, its goal was to promote “justice”. Its headquarters were in Benghazi, Libya, but it never actually became operational. In political terms, the organisation was resolutely on the side of Muslims combating Christians or Jews. Consequently, the ICIC is a good example of an organisation that distanced itself from the Red Cross principles of neutrality, impartiality and universality. While working class and trade union movements gradually lost their strength, Islamic fundamentalism remained the biggest challenge to Western-inspired humanitarian ideals. In Arab countries, essentially, activists continued to set up their own organisations. For instance, two Muslim Brothers, Ahmed Qutaish al-Azaideh and Hamzah Mansour (a M ember of Parliament), led a Green Crescent specifically set up in Jordan in 1990 to help victims of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. As for Islamic theocracies like Saudi Arabia , they also jeopardized the Committee’s universal aspirations . Thus during the first Gulf Crisis in 1991, the ICRC’s representative in Riyadh had to take down signs bearing the Red Cross emblem because it was seen as a Christian symbol. According to Andreas Wigger, this is no small issue, given that half of all ICRC operations in the world addressed the needs of Muslim victims in the 2000s.

2) The way it works
-From a legal perspective, the ICRC has a unique and hybrid status, being neither association nor intergovernmental organisation. Unlike the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, it is not run as a state body. At the diplomatic conference held in 1975 to extend the Geneva Conventions, for example, the institution showed its reluctance to act by default for states whose authorities, for whatever reason, failed to carry out their duty protecting prisoners of war and assumed that the ICRC would step in automatically. Being the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, the Committee is not strictly speaking an NGO either. With the permission of states, it acts in the public domain, negotiating international treaties and maintaining statutory relations with the United Nations. It has legal immunity, and can be awarded tax exemptions or issue passports . It therefore has a range of powers that an NGO would not usually have. It has also had its own radio frequency since 1948 and a studio to broadcast its programmes since 1965. For a long time, its delegates were provided diplomatic passports by the government of Switzerland. Since then, they are guaranteed some immunity from arrest and imprisonment thanks to specific agreements that are negotiated in various countries (the first of this kind was signed with Cameroon on 23 March 1972). Abroad, the legal status of an ICRC delegation is now similar to that of an embassy. Thus in Bogota in December 1999, some 200 Colombian displaced people (desplazados) invaded the organisation’s offices to be guaranteed some diplomatic immunity and be registered in town instead of being expelled back to war-torn areas: the police could not evict the squatters, who remained there for at least three years, and the Red Cross employees had to find another place to work!

-The ICRC’s name is misleading because the Committee is only international in its interests, not in its make up. Its members are co-opted and exclusively Swiss, which supposedly guarantees the institution's neutrality and integrity when faced with political disputes arising from state representation. It helps to protect the organisation from the tensions that tear the United Nations apart, for example. As a matter of fact, the caution of the Geneva establishment has made possible the development of humanitarian standards that are gradually gaining widespread acceptance. In fact, the small structure of the ICRC allows it to react quickly in comparison to other multinational institutions, faced with weighty bureaucracy and decision-making relying on consensus. Since the revision of its statutes in 1973, the members of the Committee proper number between 15 and 23 depending on the year, compared with 5 in 1863, 6 in 1867, 7 in 1871, 8 in 1876, 9 in 1884, 10 in 1888, 16 in 1918 and 20 in 1945. Appointments to the ICRC are made in the utmost secrecy and call to mind the procedures of the conclave to elect the Pope in the Vatican.

-Mono-national recruitment by co-optation means that Geneva protestant aristocracy is very well represented in the institution. Historically, the ICRC started as a family affair and was nicknamed the “Neighbourhood Committee”. Gustave Ador, for instance, joined the institution in December 1870 and succeeded his uncle Gustave Moynier as President from August 1910. His uncle by marriage, Daniel Colladon, was also connected to Henry Dunant. As for Leopold Boissier, who came to head the ICRC in September 1955, he was the son of Edmond Boissier, a former vice-president of the organisation. Yet another of his relations, Pierre Boissier, was a representative, then a member of the Committee and a Director of the Henry Dunant Institute. Indeed, he was earmarked for President before he died prematurely in an accident during a military training exercise in April 1974. Marcel Naville, ICRC President from January 1969, was another example: his grandfather was the head of the Central Tracing Agency during the First World War.

-Even when the Committee recruited outside these family connections, its members came from a very specific group of the Swiss population. This is apparent in the successive presidencies of Guillaume-Henri Dufour (1863), Gustave Moynier (1864-1910), Gustave Ador (1910-1928), Max Huber (1928-1945), Carl-Jacob Burckhardt (1945-1947), Paul Ruegger (1948-1955), Leopold Boissier (1955-1964), Samuel Gonard (1964-1969), Marcel Naville (1969-1973), Eric Martin (1973-1976), Alexandre Hay (1976-1987), Cornelio Sommaruga (1987-1999) and Jakob Kellenberger (since 2000). Only in 1923, after a good half-century of existence, was a non-Genevan Catholic member elected: Giuseppe Motta, from Italian-speaking Switzerland. Max Huber, elected in 1928, was in fact the first head of the ICRC not to come from Geneva. He was from Zurich and had been President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague from 1925 to 1927. In 1948, Paul Ruegger became the first Catholic to be named president of a Committee that, at the time of writing (2009), have only ever had one Jew and no Black members. In the 1960s and 1970s, the institution tried to be more representative of the Swiss Confederation’s various cantons and started to choose presidents from external candidates rather than “in-house applicants” like Jacques Moreillon or Roger Gallopin. The idea was to select very important persons, even if they had no experience in humanitarian law and operations. So the Committee continued to recruit from the bourgeoisie. Between 1863 and 1970 there were 98 members, of which 37 were lawyers, 19 doctors and 6 bankers. The average age was sixty and staff turnover was very slow. The institution's presidents included members of the armed forces (Guillaume-Henri Dufour, Samuel Gonard), elected politicians  (Gustave Ador), lawyers (Gustave Moynier, Max Huber, Paul Ruegger, Leopold Boissier, Samuel Gonard), a businessman (Max Huber), a doctor (Eric Martin), diplomats (Carl-Jacob Burckhardt, Paul Ruegger, Cornelio Sommaruga, Jakob Kellenberger) and bankers (Marcel Naville, Alexandre Hay, Cornelio Sommaruga). According to the historian Caroline Moorehead, such elitism explained an excessive deference to governmental authorities, an underlying anti-communist leaning and a paternalistic and conservative, even puritan attitude. The Committee avoided taking on representatives from trade unions or the working class until the very end of World War Two. When the ICRC was hauled up by the USSR over its silence regarding Nazi crimes against humanity, it brought in two socialists, Adolf Luchinger in 1946 and Ernest Gloor in 1945. The latter was a Member of Parliament from 1925 to 1935 and went on to be the institution's Vice-President on numerous occasions in 1947-1952, 1954-1956 and 1961-1962. Close on the heels of these new recruits were a former Secretary General of the International Federation of Metal Workers (Adolphe Graedel, from 1965), a Secretary for the Swiss Trade Union (Waldemar Jucker, from 1967), and a Vice-President of the Swiss Federation of Metallurgy and Watchmakers (André Ghelfi, from 1985).

-The Committee proper is also characterised by very low turnover of its members, if exception is made for expatriates, local employees and administrative staff. The first presidents of the institution had record-breaking terms of service: Gustave Moynier served for 46 years consecutively, Max Huber for 16 and Gustave Ador for 15. Only Marcel Naville was not offered a second mandate, as a result of the difficulties faced by the ICRC during the Nigerian Civil War in 1968. Little progress in this field was made during the 1960s. In the words of Jacques Freymond, “those who made up [the Committee] were [in fact] more inclined to analyse the world from a Swiss point of view, like the 19th century aristocracy. They felt they were citizens of the world even though they were, very unfairly, accused of only being citizens of their own world.” A great number of them never ventured beyond their country's borders and often stalled projects initiated by delegates abroad. However, when “competing” NGOs started emerging in the 1980s, they had to reconsider their position. The organisation's facelift had to be driven through an administrative reform. It meant that from 1973 onwards the mandates for ICRC members were limited to four years and could only be extended once by a single vote with a two-thirds majority. Since then, the members who made up the core of the institution were no longer permitted to remain in service beyond the age of 72. The uppermost limit was 75 years on condition that three quarters of the “Assembly”, i.e. the collective body of the Committee, were in agreement. Today, the retirement age has dropped to 70.

-Monique Pavillon claims that the ICRC was also sexist for many years in a country where women were allowed to vote only in 1971. The Committee admitted its first woman member, Marguerite Cramer (a lawyer) in 1918, and its first woman delegate, Jeanne Egger, in 1962. In the early 1990s, only 15% of the organisation's staff were female and the retirement pensions they drew were considerably less than their male counterparts. Only in 2002 was Doris Pfister given a leading position as a woman. Clearly, the ICRC's conservatism was more marked than in many other national societies within the Red Cross Movement. Even in Afghanistan, a country not known for respecting women's rights, a woman leads the Red Crescent organisation: Fatima Gailani, its president since 2004 and the daughter of the famous Islamic National Front leader Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani, who fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. In Cambodia, the Red Cross has always been headed by women. The first Presidents were princesses, namely Norodom Rasmi Sobhana from 1955 to 1967 and Norodom Monineath Sihanouk from 1967 until the coup d'état that overthrew the monarchy in 1970. They were then succeeded by figures like Chuop Samlot from 1970 to 1973, Phlech Phiroun in 1974 and from 1979 to 1992, Norodom Marie Ranariddh from 1994 to 1998 and Bun Rany Hun Sen from 1998 to 2006. Another case is the Rumanian Red Cross: its chairwoman, Mihaela Geoana, is the wife of the Senate’s President, Mircea Geoana, a social democrat candidate of the former communist party, who lost the presidential elections of 2010. Historically, women have often been a driving force behind the establishment of relief organisations for the wounded in armies in the field. Such female torch-bearers included Aurelia Ramos de Segarra in Uruguay, Thanpuying Plien Pasakornravongs in Thailand, Empress Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, Queen Sofia Wilhelmina Mariana Henrietta of Nassau in Sweden and Clara Barton in the United States. One example is i n El Salvador, where the Geneva Conventions were ratified in December 1874 . Here, Sara Guerra played an important role in supporting the Cruz Roja Salvadoreña set up in March 1885 by Doctor Augusto Bouineau. She pressed her husband, Rafael Zaldívar, a trained doctor and the country’s president at the time, to immediately recognise the organisation. A few days later, a one-month long war against Guatemala broke out. In October 1898, El Salvador left the Central American Union, and the organisation became inactive. At this point, the Women’s Red Cross Association took over. Created in 1906, it made considerable advances in the field of public health and eventually merged with the Red Cross in 1963. Meanwhile, the Cruz Roja Salvadoreña adopted new statutes in July 1918 and was recognised by the ICRC in April 1925. Despite these exceptions, men often dominated decision-making structure in national societies. Although they have always been fairly forward-thinking in gender equality issues, even Scandinavian countries were far from pioneering when it came to the Red Cross. It took a whole century for women to become the presidents of the national societies in Sweden and Norway, respectively with Christiana Magnuson from 1993 to 2002 and Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg from 1993 to 1998 (a psychiatrist by training, the latter also became the first woman to head the IFRC in 1997). The United States followed the same pattern after scandals that led to the departure of Clara Barton in 1904 and compelled Mabel Thorp Boardman to lie low and yield her position up to the men. It was only in 1991 that another female candidate, Elizabeth Dole, was elected President of the American Red Cross. In Japan, again, only 67,768 of 1,620,530 Red Cross members were women in 1913. With support from the nobility, Japanese women had to set up their own organisation in June 1887, the Ladies’ Volunteer Nursing Association (Tokushi Kango Fujinkai), just before the JCRS (Japan Red Cross Society) decided to train single women nurses in April 1890. Women then played a key role in pushing the JCRS to move away from war relief in favour of public health initiatives. As a result, the society was instrumental in opening a general hospital in Tokyo on 17 June 1892, and a maternity in the suburb of Shibuya on 9 May 1922: the latter, an exception for a country where most births took place at home, also sheltered victims of the famous earthquake of 1 September 1923. Despite their growing influence, however, women were unable to stop the militarization of the Red Cross. In 1907, JRCS nurses who died on the Manchurian front in 1905 were the first females to be buried at Yasukuni Shrine, a cemetery for war heroes. A1966 movie of Yasuzo Masumira, Red Angel, also shows JRCS nurses who take part to the fighting and kill Chinese soldiers during World War Two…

-The ICRC's executive structure deserves some explanation at this juncture. The role of Secretary General within the institution's internal hierarchy carries hardly any weight. Below the position of President of the Committee is the General Manager or Executive Director, depending on the titles handed down from year to year. Hierarchically speaking, this role could be compared to that of the Prime Minister in France. The first person to hold this position after the Second World War was Roger Gallopin, as the representative of the regional delegations from 1946 to 1969 and as President of the Executive Council from 1969 to 1976. His colleagues included Jean Pichet, who dealt with general matters, and Georges Dunand, who focused on field operations. Back then, the legal protection of victims of armed conflicts was the ICRC’s main occupation. Consequently, jurists dominated the institution. The role of Director of Operations was less important , as a representative of the regional delegations who became part of a Commission of External Affairs established in April 1950. The position was successively held by Jacques Chenevière, Raymond Courvoisier from 1969 to 1971, Jean-Pierre Maunoir in 1972, Jean-Pierre Hocke from 1973 to 1985, André Pasquier from 1986 to 1989, Jean de Courten from 1989 to 1998, Jean-Daniel Tauxe from 1998 to 2002 and Pierre Kraehenbuel since 2002. The title of Director-General was created after a reform in July 1973 to professionalize the organisation by separating its governing and operational structures. Set up in 1946 and 1949 respectively, the Bureau and the Council of the Presidency were also replaced by an Executive Council. As for the Director-General, he was responsible for supervising the various divisions: legal services, operations, human resources, finances and the Central Tracing Agency (CTA). Dividing the executive powers sometimes provoked conflicts between the President of the ICRC, Eric Martin, and his Director-General, Roger Gallopin, that proved hard to solve. But according to David Forsythe, Alexander Hay was in 1976 the last President of the Committee to actively have a hand in the organisation's management. Afterwards, it was down to the Director-General to deal with daily matters. This was the case for Jacques Moreillon with Yves Sandoz from 1976 to 1989, Guy Deluz from 1990 until his resignation in 1992 (due to a difference in opinion with the then President Cornelio Sommaruga), Peter Fuchs from 1992, Paul Grossrieder from 1998, Angelo Gnädinger from 2002 (when the position was reinforced) and Pierre Krähenbûl (also spelt Kraehenbuel), first as a deputy from 2004. By virtue of an administrative reform endorsed in May 1991, the Director-General became a full legal member of the Executive Council, a board which adopted the name of Assembly Council late in 1998 and which grouped the heads of the divisions of operations, doctrine, legal affairs and cooperation with the Red Cross Movement.

-These changes demonstrate the ICRC's commitment to becoming more professional. In today's system, paid positions are on the increase, but at the expense of volunteer posts. The organisation has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In the words of President Gustave Ador, quoted by Jean-Pierre Gaume, the ICRC started off without “ambitions to operate in the field”. It intended to act as a kind of conduit between different Red Cross or Red Crescent societies which were supposed to run independent humanitarian programmes despite their questionable impartiality and integrity. The institution worked with very few administrative staff and, prior to 1910, Committee meetings frequently took place in Gustave Moynier's apartment to save having to hire a meeting room. The day-to-day running of the office was managed by a small number of people. At the time, the Committee members had to dedicate only one working day every month to the organisation, compared with one month per year at present. The amateurism was particularly visible when it came to selecting delegates abroad. The recruits were mostly Swiss businessmen and expatriates who were hired in the field as and when required. Paradoxically, there were no significant overhauls despite the extension of activities during the two World Wars. The number of volunteers, including expatriates and administrative personnel in Geneva, made up between 15 and 50% of the ICRC workforce: there were 1,752 volunteers to 1,907 paid staff in 1945, 60 to 334 in 1948, 52 to 316 in 1950, 47 to 301 in 1952, 53 to 289 in 1953, 51 to 179 in 1954, 50 to 170 in 1956 and 43 to 187 in 1957. The proportion was even higher within the delegates’ ranks, and was worsened by the financial crisis that hit the Committee  after World War Two : a record of 38 to 35 in 1949, 34 to 27 in 1950, 30 to 4 in 1954, 30 to 10 in 1955 and 26 to 3 in 1956.

-Such a system had its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, the volunteer delegates were well connected locally. Many of them were married to women who were native to the countries to which they were posted or in which they were already working. These connections eased political contacts to such an extent that they could often gain entry to detention centres that would normally be out of bounds to foreign visitors. On the other hand, as Catherine Rey-Schyrr points out, they were not capable of the same impartiality as expatriates and this lack of independence caused problems within the ICRC, namely in Greece in 1948 and in Spain in 1959. In Saigon during the Vietnam War, explain for instance Françoise Perret and François Bugnion, these “honorary delegates” were Swiss businessmen who were contracted by the government and who accepted to interview political prisoners in front of their wardens. As a result, the communists did not trust them at all. In general, these “honorary delegates” acted more like representatives. They did not possess the same operational capacity as their successors have today. It was the Six-Day War of 1967 which forced a change in mentality. As the political crisis deepened in the disputed Israeli-Palestinian territory, the organisation sought to recruit more long-term staff, instead of relying on a list of volunteers who were on standby or recruited on an ad hoc basis. Prior to 1970, candidates for delegates’ posts were trained on the job. After this date, they were invited to take part in theory lessons and courses where they could practise in simulated situations. These courses were held in Cartigny, a former presbytery on the outskirts of Geneva, then moved to Ecogia in the Versoix district in 2001. According to Isabelle Vichniac, formerly the Geneva correspondent for Le Monde newspaper, the organisation was particularly strict when it came to recruitment. Besides looking at candidates' qualifications, motivations and age group (between 25 and 40), the ICRC checked that they had a clean police record, a valid driving licence, no history of medical problems, no debts, no alimony to pay, no record of political activism or links with Amnesty International and no outward signs of homosexuality, sentimental attachments or exceptional family burdens. Names with Jewish undertones were overlooked because they could cause issues in the Arab world. Coloured people were also avoided as they did not conform to the traditional Swiss “look”.

-In its attempt to become more professional, the ICRC eventually had to remove two obstacles to its growth: its dependence on volunteers and its mono-national recruitment. The first difficulty was dealt with by increasing salaries in order to keep experienced staff. In the early 1970s, 60% of the permanent staff at headquarters held a degree or equivalent qualification. Working conditions were reasonable by Swiss standards. Executives earned just a little less than in the private sector. As for the lower staff ranks, they were not paid the “thirteenth month” bonus like in a company, nor did they benefit from the tax breaks enjoyed by intergovernmental organisations in Geneva. Expatriates, however, had similar packages to those of Swiss diplomats. Yet there was no apparent connection between remuneration and the ICRC's ability to retain its delegates. According to a study by David Forsythe published in 2005, statistics from 1974 showed that, w hile 75% of expatriates left their positions after three years , permanent administrative staff stayed in Geneva for an average of eight years . A rise in salaries was not sufficient to retain even the most determined expatriates in war zones, given the psychological strain they were placed under . Consequently, an a ssociation of f ormer d elegates established in 1983, the AAD (Association des anciens délégués), had to set up a pension fund in 1994, the Fondation Avenir, to help retired ICRC personnel in their social and professional reintegration. Following a complaint made by an employee who underwent an amputation after treading on a mine, the institution also had to make its insurance cover more comprehensive, as it used to exclude acts of war! Eventually, the disappearance of the volunteer force helped the ICRC to put an end to tensions with professional staff but not between the headquarters and the delegates in the field.

-In this respect, Red Cross organisations are different from the Geneva Committee because they still retain a large number of volunteers. National societies became particularly popular after the First World War when the Youth Red Cross was launched in the United States in 1917, in Australia in 1920, in France in 1922 and in Germany in 1925. Most of these “junior” sections then lost the favour of the public and were reabsorbed into national societies after the 1968 student uprisings in Western countries. Moreover, Red Cross organisations also wanted to run in a more professional manner, following the example of the ICRC. During the French Indochina War, for example, the CRF (Croix-Rouge française) developed the so-called IPSA (Infirmières Pilotes Secouristes de l’Air), a corps of air pilot, parachutist and rescue nurses. Trained to intervene in flight, many of these nurses later retrained and went on to become air hostesses in the private sector. As for the ARC (American Red Cross), it adopted a more professional approach when its “Chairman” from 1954 to 1973, Roland Harriman, decided in 1953 to create a separate salaried Director's position that came with the rather misleading title of “President”. The organisation then took its first steps towards modernisation under the guidance of people like Richard Schubert, who rationalized and computerised the accounts system from 1983. After that, John “Jack” McGuire, a specialist from the pharmaceutical industry, reorganised the ARC’s system of blood stocks from 2005. Generally speaking, the number of volunteers working in national societies seems to be steadily diminishing. In the United States, for example, there were 34 volunteers to one paid worker in 2006, compared with 171 volunteers per paid worker in 1966. However, it is difficult to compare one country's situation with another. In the West, the number of volunteers sometimes include names of those who have simply made donations. In Eastern Europe during the Communist era, such statistics were even less reliable: all citizens were compelled to become members of national Red Cross societies, which were considered as mass organisations, like trade unions but with a cheaper subscription and a slighter political commitment!

-In order to expand its activities across the world, the ICRC also had to give up exclusively employing Swiss citizens. Sticking to one nationality restricted the recruitment of qualified professionals and did not fit the requirements of an institution which was increasingly called into developing countries. As a result, the ICRC’s expatriate workforce grew older. In the 1970s, delegates in the field were, on average, around forty years of age, compared with thirty for the employees of the Division of Operations in Geneva. At the time, 99% of expatriates were Swiss, and the rest mostly French. These proportions were reflected at headquarters, where foreign national employees were not involved in decision-making and represented barely 10% of the organisation's permanent administrative staff. But in 1993, the ICRC implemented a change in policy and started recruiting non-Swiss delegates. Ten years later, the proportion of foreign nationals in the expatriate staff was 40%. This figure did not include some 9,000 local staff trained in the regional centres of Abidjan, Amman, Colombo, Bogota, Nairobi, Sarajevo and Tbilisi. By 2002, non-Swiss employees in Geneva and in the field represented nearly a third of the total workforce, a proportion which reached 50% in 2004. Nevertheless, only 4% of them were citizens from developing countries.

-In extending its activities, the total number of ICRC staff increased. It peaked at 3,700 during the Second World War and began to drop soon afterwards due to budgetary constraints. There were less than fifty employees working at headquarters in 1950 and less than thirty in the 1960s. In the 1970s, the ICRC started gathering steam again and reached post-war levels of activity, with as many staff in Geneva in 1979 as there were in 1949. Recruitments for positions abroad also exploded . After 1989, expatriates began to outnumber employees at headquarters and reached 1,000 in 1993. In the 1990s, the ICRC’s total workforce was around 1,600, of which less than 50% were based in Geneva. In addition, the organisation employed 6,000 casual local staff and could count on 200 volunteers provided by national societies. Today, it has ten thousand personnel around the world, of whom over two thousand are directly recruited through the Geneva office. Technically, the ICRC can also rely on the workforce of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. According to Didier Cherpitel, a former Secretary General for the IFRC, national societies had around 300,000 paid staff, 97 million members and carried out the equivalent of 1.8 million full-time jobs using about 20 million volunteers in 2003.

3) The Networking: coordination problems
-To understand how the ICRC works is to know the nature of its various relationships with, on the one hand, international and non-governmental organisations and, on the other hand, with the Red Cross movement. A detailed analysis follows, starting with the former. Thanks to its special status, the Geneva Committee maintains a number of statutory links with intergovernmental organisations. By virtue of Resolution 45/6 of 16 October 1990, the United Nations General Assembly agreed by consensus that the ICRC should be allowed to participate in its sessions as an “observer”. This privilege was later extended to the IFRC with Resolution 49/2 of 19 October 1994. On the recommendation of the Chilean ambassador, Juan Somavia, the UN Security Council has now consulted the Committee on a number of occasions, namely in the case of Rwanda in February 1997 and Sudan in October 1998. On a regional scale, the ICRC has also been an observer in the African Union since 4 May 1992 and the Organization of American states since 10 May 1996. In 1999, the Geneva Committee also formalized its relationship with the European Union and set up an office in Brussels after signing an initial agreement in 1993 with ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office). Other United Nations' agencies were not overlooked either. In 1982, the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency managed to sign a one-way agreement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees that gave it free access to the list of persons of concern to UNHCR. Similar partnerships were forged on a case-by-case basis with NGOs. A case in point is the agreement of 29 March 2000 that permitted the ICRC to use an American database that was drawn up by PHR (Physicians for Human Rights). This helped the Committee identify missing persons in the aftermath of the massacres in Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995.

-From an institutional point of view, the ICRC’s networking relies first and foremost on the Red Cross Movement as formed by national societies and their Federation, the IFRC. This complex situation means that a comprehensive study cannot be limited to the Geneva Committee's relationship with the Federation and the Red Cross societies. It also requires consideration of the IFRC's interactions with its members and must show how national societies themselves are interconnected, for instance through regional organisations like the Association for the French-speaking Red Crosses and Red Crescents in Africa, ACROFA (Association des Croix Rouges et Croissants Rouges francophones d’Afrique). For the ICRC, complications arise when it has to respond to contradictory call-outs. Being involved in a structure composed of national societies is somewhat ambiguous and recalls the position of the International Labour Organization with regards to trade unions. In fact, the IFRC is now charged with representing the various Red Crosses and Red Crescents all over the world, whereas the ICRC is supposed to guarantee their humanitarian values and endorses their existence by granting official recognition.

-Theoretically, the main body of the Movement should be the Standing Commission. Since 1928, its role has been to   liaise between the ICRC, the IFRC and national societies from one International Red Cross conference to the next . In practice, however, its role has been purely official. It has been chaired by Pierre Nolf (Belgium) from 1928, Iyesato Tokugawa (Japan) from 1934, Arthur Stanley (Great Britain) from 1938, Folke Bernadotte (Sweden) from 1946, André François-Poncet (France) from 1948, the countess of Limerick, Angela Olivia (Great Britain), from 1965, Geoffrey Newman-Morris (Australia) from 1973, Evelyn Shuckburgh (Great Britain) from 1977, Ahmed Abu-Goura (Jordan) from 1981, Botho de Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein (Germany) from 1993 and the princess of Orange-Nassau, Margriet van Vollenhoven (Netherlands)  from 1995. It was only in 1961 in Prague that the Standing Commission was able to organise its first meeting outside the framework of an international conference. Plans to grant it powers to supervise the ICRC and the IFRC never unfolded because the Committee and the Federation have always been poles apart: the first endeavouring to preserve political independence and the second attempting to retain directorship of the national societies. When the 26th International Red Cross Conference was cancelled in 1991, the Standing Commission returned briefly to its position at the forefront and established a discussion forum that is now known as the Council of Delegates.

-Historically, the relationship between the ICRC and the Red Cross movement was limited to contact with national societies, as the IFRC and its predecessor, the LRC, only date back to 1919. In 1887, the 4th International Red Cross Conference held in Germany concluded that the Geneva Committee would have the power to recognise national societies. Theoretically, the IFRC can admit a new member without the approval of the ICRC, but this has never happened. Consequently, the ICRC is the last port of call when it comes to recognising a national organisation, with or without the Federation's consent. The other societies within the IFRC cannot intervene at this stage and must wait for their general meeting to vote and ratify the admission of new members. A Red Cross organisation could thus be recognised by the ICRC without becoming a member of the Federation. The IFRC does not have a right of veto in this matter and resents not having the statutory ability to freely select its members.

-In other words, the Geneva Committee has the power to block access to the movement and, as such, has a key role with regard to states and national societies. Its stance is inherently political since it is able to select and acknowledge those entities that wish to join the movement. For instance, the ICRC approves the governmental delegations participating in the International Red Cross Conferences, even if states are not members of the United Nations. Examples include the Vatican and Switzerland, which signed the Geneva Conventions but only joined the UN in 2002 . Decisions to invite Palestinian or Taiwanese delegations provoked fierce debate as mentioned above in the chronological section on the history of the Committee. Similarly, many issues have arisen during the recognition of national societies, which have sometimes paralleled the recognition of a government or an independent state. The question became so sensitive that the ICRC no longer took the risk of indicating the total number of national societies in its annual reports!

-Given these issues, it is important to understand how the accreditation process developed over time and the ways the Committee implemented it. The rules stated that no national society could be recognized in a state that was not independent and had not signed the Geneva Conventions. But as early as 1876, the ICRC allowed Red Crosses to be set up in Montenegro and Serbia while these two territories were still formally part of the Ottoman Empire. The European bias was quite clear in this regard. The Icelandic Red Cross was recognised in 1925 even though the island only officially became independent of Denmark in 1944, nearly twenty years later. Likewise, the Norwegian national society was recognised in 1867, almost forty years before the country seceded from Sweden in 1905. European dominions and settlements around the world were also given preferential treatment, especially the British ones. The Canadian, South African and Australian national societies, respectively established in 1885, 1896 and 1914, were recognised by the ICRC in 1927 and 1928, whilst Red Cross chapters from other colonies had to wait until independence was granted before they could become full members of the movement. Consequently, the number of national societies rose rapidly when independence caused local branches to cut ties with their mother-state societies. One example is Cambodia. On 9 November 1953, the country became independent and, on 18 February 1955, Dr You Chhin founded a Red Cross. This organisation broke away from its French counterpart and was recognised by the Cambodian government on 16 June 1958, and later by the ICRC on 7 October 1960. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, the Red Cross society set up in July 1950 was considered as a branch of the parent organisation in London. It was an exceptional case because in July 1997, when the British enclave was returned to mainland China, the organisation was absorbed into the Chinese national society instead of becoming independent. Nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, there tended to be a splitting off. After the partition of the Indian sub-continent, in particular, not only did the Indian Red Cross separate from its British counterpart, it also grew into three different entities in Burma, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, each taking its own direction. Following border conflicts with India, the Pakistani Red Cross, recognised by the ICRC in July 1948, chose for instance to adopt the Red Crescent emblem to reflect its army’s health services, whose logo was also the crescent. Generally speaking, if a national organisation already existed, accreditation seemed to follow automatically after independence. Because Great Britain ratified the Geneva Conventions on behalf of India in 1931, for example, Burma automatically inherited accreditation when it shook off New Delhi's mantle in 1937, then London's mantle in 1948. But the situation soon grew more complicated. The Swiss Federal Council, trustee of the Geneva Conventions, began to request a declaration of continuity from newly independent states to ensure that their predecessors' commitments were being upheld. Moreover, a United Nations Convention signed in Vienna on 23 August 1978 required that all previous treaties be revalidated. Renewal no longer happened by default and applications now had to be made from scratch. After 1980, the ICRC could no longer consider that the Geneva Conventions were still valid in countries that had not repudiated them after gaining independence. From then on, it had to request formal declarations that they were being applied, even on a temporary basis. This was often a determining factor in the recognition of a Red Cross or Red Crescent organisation, like in the case of Belize in March 1984.

-There was an interesting twist in territories that de facto acted as independent states, such as Kurdistan and Somaliland after 1991. A Manchukuo Red Cross was, for instance, set up by the Japanese occupying forces in Manchuria in 1932; similarly, the Turks organised a Red Crescent in the “Republic” of Northern Cyprus after 1974. To prove their international legitimacy and adherence to the ideals of Henry Dunant, secessionist movements also launched “national” societies. This was the case for a short-lived Yellow Cross that sprang up in 1950 during an uprising on Celebes Island (now known as Sulawesi). When and where necessary, the ICRC sometimes dealt with relief organisations set up by guerrillas, even if it could not officially recognise them. Thus it worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent during Black September in Jordan in 1970, and later in Lebanon during the civil war from 1975 onwards. But in Iraq in 1974 it did not heed the Kurdish  petition to have their ”Red Cross” organisation recognized.

-Operational relations between the ICRC and the IFRC, the third great pillar of the International Red Cross Movement, are no less complicated. Tension between the two institutions dates right back to the creation of the League of Red Cross Societies in May 1919. This state of affairs was to continue after the latter was renamed the League of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in October 1983 and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in November 1991. The relationship has been characterised by competitiveness, conflicts over areas of expertise and, during the early 1990s, occasional personal issues between the ICRC and IFRC presidents Cornelio Sommaruga and Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander. In his report, Donald Tansley described the two entities as thriving on “an atmosphere of mutual suspicion”. Various agreements signed on 27 October 1928, 8 December 1951, 25 April 1969, 20 October 1989 and 26 November 1997 tried to encourage harmony and allocate designated tasks to each organisation. The ICRC primarily deals with aid and humanitarian law during wartime, whilst the IFRC takes care of natural disasters, sustainable development, poverty and coordinating national societies in peacetime. However, in practice, there is a lot of overlap. In fact, the two entities have never succeeded in clarifying their duties in matters of natural disasters during armed conflict and the legal protection of prisoners in peacetime. After the end of World War One, the ICRC refused to limit its activities . It argued that it had been helping victims of natural disasters prior to the creation of the League of Red Cross in 1919. It emphasised that traditionally its peacetime roles were in the three following areas: communication between national societies, organising conferences for the movement and publishing the international Bulletin. Furthermore, recalls Bridget Towers, the ICRC had been running public health campaigns since 1869. After the First World War, it continued to work in this field by supporting the initiatives of Save the Children and sending aid to the victims of a typhus epidemic in Poland in 1920, for example.

-It is unsurprising then that the ICRC has often trod on the toes of the IFRC, and vice versa. Indeed, it stands to reason that the Committee helps victims of natural disasters in war-torn regions where it is already operational. It is harder to see the logic behind its peacetime programmes. Yet the ICRC has often acted in areas that are far from being conflict zones. This is the case for flood victims: it sent aid to the Netherlands in February 1953; Iraq in March 1954; Eastern Bengal in the current Bangladesh in June 1954; Austria in July 1954; Assam and Western Bengal in India in August 1954; India and Pakistan in August 1955; Bangladesh in November 1970; Haiti in May 1972; the island of Socotra in Yemen in November 1972; the Asunción region of Paraguay in May 1979; the Atlantic coast of Honduras in October 1988; the Ethiopian Ogaden in January 1998; Southern Russia in June 2002, and so on. Likewise, the ICRC helped drought-stricken areas such as the coastal plain of Tihama in North Yemen in August 1970, the forests of Irian Jaya in Indonesia in March 1998 and the Pokot districts of Turkana Province in Kenya in July 1999. Its intervention is understandable when it comes to Eritrea and Ethiopia at the tail end of the war between these two countries, from April to June 2003. Nor is it surprising to find the Committee helping the victims of landslides in politically unstable regions, such as the Garm and Karategin Valley districts of Tajikistan in May 1998, or areas affected by earthquakes, like Rostak, Northern Afghanistan, in February 1998, or Pakistani Kashmir, in October 2005. On the other hand, it is hard to grasp why the ICRC has been involved in natural disasters affecting countries where there are no military operations, unless the organisation intervenes in all cases of criminal or accidental violence, which would mean covering the whole planet! For example, when earthquakes struck Iran in June 1981, it seemed appropriate that Geneva send aid to Golbaf, as the country was at war with Iraq. But this was not the case for Bam in December 2003. It is also doubtful why the ICRC set up relief programmes for the victims of a volcanic eruption at Mont Pinatubo i n the Philippines in June 1991. Nor were there wars when the ICRC aided earthquake survivors on the Ionian Islands and in Thessaly in Greece in August 1953, then in April 1954, in Orléansville in Algeria in September 1954, in Skopje in Macedonia in July 1963, in Managua in Nicaragua in December 1972 and in North Yemen in December 1983.

-Similarly, the Geneva Committee's peacetime preoccupations have at times focused on public health and agricultural development programmes which are technically the domain of national societies and the IFRC. Following a survey of the sanitary conditions of Amazonian Indians in Brazil in August 1970, the ICRC participated in vaccination campaigns in Honduras in April 1972, then tackled malaria in the Tây Ninh province of Vietnam in March 1976. Over the years, its activities have become more and more diverse. In Kabul in 1996, the Geneva Committee developed professional training for young handicapped people. This programme led it to establish a specific unit to deal with the reconstruction of war-torn countries and help victims to rebuild their livelihoods. Thus it tried to improve the health of cattle in Ethiopia and in Mali by conducting veterinary vaccination programmes in 1997. In 1999, it also built wells to provide clean water during a cholera epidemic on Pemba and Ugunja islands in Zanzibar. Eventually, the ICRC claimed a special role combining rehabilitation and development in post-conflict reconstruction. Although it admitted in its 1998 annual report that poverty as such was not in its domain, it nonetheless went on to state that it fell to the Committee to “ensure, where possible, that development agencies took charge of a vulnerable population once the crisis was over”.

-The IFRC has also been guilty of treading on the ICRC's toes. In 1982, it was invited to visit political prisoners in Poland, an activity usually reserved for the Committee. Moreover, the Federation has often intervened in war-torn countries without the Committee's approval. There have been instances where the two institutions worked harmoniously together, namely during the communist uprising in Greece in 1947, the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the independence of Algeria in 1962, the Black September revolt in Jordan in 1970 and the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. On the other hand, paths divided during the wars of Korea in 1950, Biafra in 1968, Bangladesh in 1971, Vietnam prior to 1972, Ethiopia in 1984 and the Gulf in 1991. On more than one occasion, coordination was futile with both the ICRC and the IFRC simply getting in each other's way. At the outset of the Korean War in November 1950, for example, the League of Red Cross launched an appeal to national societies without first informing the Committee. After hostilities ended in July 1953,  the latter eventually had to entrust the Red Crosses in the field with the task of repatriating prisoners of war because it had been rejected by the communists. The League also pre-empted the ICRC's position in “Marxist” Ethiopia in June 1988, when the Committee refused to work under the political control of the junta and was expelled after putting its operations on hold and handing over its supplies. Without informing the ICRC, the LRC then took the reins by funding the Ethiopian Red Cross in line with conditions that the Geneva Committee had specifically rejected to avoid supporting military interests and infringing on the movement's neutrality. During the first Gulf Crisis in March 1991, once again, the Federation unilaterally broke an agreement that had been signed with the ICRC two months earlier. It elected itself responsible for collecting funds so that it could carry out its programmes autonomously until national societies dissuaded it from pursuing this course of action.

-Such tensions seriously compromise the movement. Christophe Girod argues that “they undermine the credibility of the two institutions in the eyes of governmental donors, they ruin the coherence of political negotiations with authorities that might simply select the agency that offers its services with the least conditions, and they compromise the national societies that both fund and participate in relief operations already facing active competition from NGOs in their home countries.” The ICRC and the IFRC’s separate fundraising agendas have confused a lot of donors. Programmes have been duplicated, costs have increased and the movement was divided, incapable of speaking with one voice. Since the ICRC and the IFRC cannot be merged, it would probably be more effective to pool some common services in order to benefit from economies of scale in logistics, supplies, public relations and statistics, as recommended in Donald Tansley's report. But the rivalry between the two institutions is fuelled by personal disputes, the inability of the Federation to coordinate the national societies and the downright refusal of the Committee to give up any responsibility for fear of losing its independence and compromising its neutrality.

-The ICRC's “splendid isolation” and its reluctance to cooperate with others have been noted by many observers. Donald Tansley wrote that the Committee's often courteous, formal and aloof attitude towards other institutions has discouraged “open and honest debate on shared problems. The ICRC cooperates only when it needs information or help.” Otherwise, it rarely takes the initiative to facilitate coordination. Instead, it seeks to sidestep or overtake its rivals. For instance, during the Nigerian Civil War, spurred on by a desire to compete with religious NGOs, it took huge risks to bring food supplies to the secessionists. Similarly, it disapproved of intergovernmental organisations' attempts to assist prisoners because these institutions were too political and might compromise access to jails. Hans-Peter Gasser, a Committee member , describes how the ICRC frowned upon the European Council's forays into its territory, which the latter justified by saying it was working to ban the use of torture. Likewise in Rwanda, Simone Delorenzi reports that Geneva disapproved of prison visits carried out by the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Louvain, which resulted in lower standards being recommended. Obviously, similar initiatives by the IFRC were also criticised because the Federation’s close relationships with national bodies meant it lacked sufficient neutrality to inspire confidence. This had clear consequences. I n his study of the period between 1958 and 1970, Jacques Moreillon show ed that the League and national societies were less frequently called upon to help prisoners of conscience: they were approached in up to 25% of cases, compared with 40% for the ICRC.

-The Geneva Committee has repeatedly been criticised for thwarting coordination attempts and refusing to make its operational objectives known to other organisations. Since the first Gulf Crisis in 1991, funders have attacked its lack of strategic vision, its reactive stance, its ambition to be omnipresent and its tendency to duplicate programmes at much greater expense than its “rivals”. Basing her comments on a questionnaire published in 2003, Michèle Mercier states that more than half of the ICRC's operations could have been carried out by other organisations in nearly 50% of situations. The picture is not always so bleak. The Committee has actually cooperated with intergovernmental agencies like the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in Bangladesh in 1971 and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) in Cambodia in 1979. During the second Gulf war in 2003, it agreed to share in real time the information it was privy to concerning the state of sanitation in Iraq. At a meeting in Seville in November 1997, the IF RC accepted the ICRC’s leadership of relief operations during wartime. It also defined more precisely when a conflict situation began and ended so that each organisation would know when to intervene. A turning point came in 2003, when a former Norwegian Red Cross General Secretary, Jan Egeland, was appointed to head the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  His personal contacts smoothed relations with the Geneva Committee . Likewise, the fact that some ICRC members were involved in setting up NGOs probably helped in negotiations with other bodies. In 1959, for example, Jacques Freymond launched Swisscontact, a foundation specialized in development and funded by the Cooperation Department of the Swiss Federal  Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Following in his footsteps, others worked for not-for-profit organisations after leaving the Committee, including Jacques Moreillon, who became secretary general of the World Organization of the Scout Movement from 1988 to 2004, and Louise Doswald-Beck, who headed the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) from 2000 to 2003. However, these connections are not always positive, as in the case of Jean-Pierre Hocke, a former Operations Division Director at the ICRC. His reputation for pragmatism earned him the prestigious title of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1986. But he led the institution to financial breakdown by hiring staff with ties to the developing countries' representatives who had supported his nomination. Worse still, explains Gil Loescher, he yielded to the pressure of member states’ immigration services and violated his mandate by pushing asylum seekers under his protection to be repatriated, whether they liked it or not.

-Poor coordination was always a central problem for the Red Cross Movement and reverberated within the IFRC and national societies. Antoine Bosshard explains that, over time, the ICRC increasingly encountered competition from a growing number of Red Crosses that focused on their own country first, leaving very little resources for international activities. In 1995, for example, only 50 of 14,000 employees of the CRF (Croix-Rouge Française) dealt with foreign affairs. But as the organisation’s operational and financial capabilities increased, so did its involvement in setting up programmes abroad: resources allocated to international missions were nearly 4% of a total budget of 907.3 million Euros in 2005, compared with less than 2% of approximately 526 million Euros in 1995. At the Belgian Red Cross, the overseas division actually became a separate association in 1997, and had a budget of 6.1 million Euros in 2006. Meanwhile, the ICRC struggled to impose its leadership when wartime operations were being planned. Without centralised management or guidance in the form of a working role model, the Red Cross Movement proved so uncoordinated and tangled that it began losing sight of its original aims: it even risked dissolution according to Donald Tansley’s report in 1975. The ICRC and the IFRC were so concerned with defending their own respective areas of responsibility that there were more differences than similarities between them. Moreover, it was only in 1946 that the League of Red Cross sketchily defined the fundamental roles and remits of national societies in a resolution voted by its Council of Governors in Oxford. Today, conflicts over areas of competence still exist despite a four-year action plan drawn up to deal with these divisions and adopted during the celebrations for the 50th Anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions at the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Geneva from 31 October to 6 November 1999.

-Although the ICRC is supposed to coordinate national societies during wartime relief operations, it has been beleaguered by a host of misplaced initiatives. Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations often follow their own strategies with no reference to Geneva. There is little effort to coordinate. Due to divisions based on ideology, religion and nationality, some national societies even support opposing camps. This happened in Vietnam where the Soviet Red Cross took the side of Hanoi while the American and Philippine Red Crosses backed Saigon. Another case in point occurred during the Biafra war when the French Red Cross openly supported the secessionists and preferred to send supplies directly to the rebels from Gabon, rather than sharing an airlift organised by the ICRC in Nigeria. Similarly, in 1971, the Soviet Red Cross neglected to inform Geneva of its decision to rush medical teams to Bangladesh during the secession of East Pakistan. The situation has not improved since. The Gulf crises have their own take on this trend. To begin with, Red Cross societies avoided consulting Geneva when they attempted to rescue their nationals held hostage under the regime of Saddam Hussein after September 1990. Acting with Baghdad's approval and despite opposition from the United Nations Committee responsible for imposing sanctions on Iraq, the Indian Red Cross took the initiative to charter a ship without an ICRC escort and was delayed at sea before being allowed to unload its supplies in the port of Um-el-Qasr. Similarly, when Saddam Hussein's troops pulled out of Kuwait, the American Red Cross omitted to coordinate with the Geneva Committee when sending doctors and undertaking reconstruction programmes. Meanwhile, Maghreb Red Crescent medical teams attempted to leave the region as early as possible to avoid being forced to only treat victims from the government’s side during the repression of the Shiite uprising in Southern Iraq in March 1991. In the Kurdish North of the country, Red Cross societies from developed countries intervened without prior agreement from Saddam Hussein. Under immense pressure from both the general public and the media, they worked closely with Western troops involved in Operation Provide Comfort. At the same time, the ICRC hoped to disassociate itself from this military intervention, in order to remain neutral and continue working in the South with Baghdad government . Problems of this kind reappeared during the second Gulf Crisis when American and allied troops disembarked in Iraq from 2003 onwards. In fact, the Italian Red Cross worked under the protection of its country's military contingent and categorically refused to coordinate its programmes with the ICRC…

-It must be noted that the IFRC has not fared much better. Considering that the Federation is composed of independent national societies, it applies the majority rule even though it actually runs more like a confederation than a federation. As such it wields few powers over its members when supervising relief operations and trying to guarantee their impartiality. At best, it opens communication channels by endlessly funding meetings which, according to Donald Tansley, have sometimes swallowed up almost half of its regular budget. By doing so, it involves a maximum number of national societies but fails to actually agree on any useful resolution. When the Governor's Council took place in Oslo in May 1954, the League did create an administrative office to coordinate member activities during peacetime. However, it was soon bogged down in redirecting calls for help and checking it was appropriate to send supplies from one Red Cross to another as requested . When an earthquake struck Agadir in Morocco in February 1960, for example, national societies did not bother to coordinate and even went as far as providing overly warm clothing and cheese that melted in the sun. The reorganisation of the IFRC’s administrative structure in April 1983 confirmed this state of affairs. During this re-shuffle, the aid desk was divided into six regional offices, effectively limiting the coordinating role of the Federation to a mere power of verification a posteriori. Since then, no substantial progress has been made in this regard. During the Asian tsunami of December 2004, for example,  t he Indonesian Red Cross had to warn other national societies to stop sending out supplies without evaluating what was really required and without consulting the local authorities first. When the disaster was given global coverage in the media, 100 of the 184 IFRC member organisations appealed to public generosity to help the victims. The outcome was that a considerable number of national societies with no prior experience abroad launched their first operations in a developing country; a case in point was the Irish Red Cross. Eager to spend the funds they had collected too hastily, they set up their own programmes which duplicated efforts in regions where the IFRC had refused their assistance because needs were already being met. According to John Telford et al., for instance, ten of the biggest Red Crosses in the world pledged to reconstruct a total of 21,000 houses in Indonesia. In 2006, however, less than 500 had been completed . IFRC food deliveries to villages also undermined the powers of traditional chiefs and dissuaded farmers from returning to agricultural work. As for the medical response, it was completely out of proportion and inappropriate. In general, tsunamis do not lead to epidemics and therefore require little follow-up health care. Statistically speaking, they cause an average of one death for every four injured, against one in eight in the case of earthquakes. The emergency hospitals set up by the French Red Cross therefore remained underexploited.

-With no central governing body, the Movement is not really able to solve its coordination problems. Indeed, each national society is free to work with its equivalent in a war-torn country. In other words, coordination issues do not only concern the IFRC or the ICRC, but also Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations between themselves. Admittedly, within national societies there is little room for manoeuvre, because they are structurally limited by political, organisational and legal constraints that often hinder humanitarian action. This subject is discussed more at length in the fourth part of this analysis. During the cold war, strategic alliances were forged under the guise of coordination. These ties, however, responded to ideology first and humanitarian needs afterwards. Moreover, some national societies did not even attempt to cooperate. An extreme example is the German and Soviet Red Crosses, which did not communicate at all during the Second World War. During the era of decolonisation, tensions also arose between developing and developed countries. “Partnerships” with poor Red Cross societies in the third world were often tainted with distrust and fraught with accusations of imperialism. At a symposium on development in Montreux in 1975, a solution was forged by way of euphemisms describing  “contributors” and “beneficiaries” as “participants” and “operators”. But this was insufficient to solve the underlying problems. According to Ellwyn Stoddard, for instance, the Mexican government initially refused assistance from the American Red Cross after Hurricane Gladys destroyed  the coast north of Tampico in September 1955. On this occasion, foreign aid bruised national pride as the local authorities would have preferred to coordinate and check all rescue workers. Under pressure from the victims, the Mexican government eventually gave way and handed over its aid supervision capacity to the United States.

4) The networking: relations with national societies
-While Red Cross and Red Crescents are essential intermediaries in distributing humanitarian aid and organising relief missions, they can also be obstacles to the ICRC. Officially, the Geneva Committee underlines the important contributions made by national societies. However, they also cause problems linked to bad governance, nationalist tendencies, inefficiency and violations of humanitarian principles. Each of these calls for more detailed analysis.

-Problems linked to governance include the fact that many national societies are un democratic, suffer from factionalism and have a low turnover of prominent members. The ICRC itself has had its share of internal disputes with the departure of leading members like Henry Dunant and Guy Deluz at the behest of Gustave Moynier and Cornelio Sommaruga respectively. The institution’s inertia has been a source of frustration for many: Jacques Freymond, who joined the Committee in 1959 and became acting president in 1969, left in 1972 after the organisation flatly refused to undergo reforms. However, the problems faced by the ICRC are nothing compared to the tensions within the IFRC and some national societies, where disagreements have led to divisions and even caused staff to stop working. In 1946, the League of Red Cross Societies and Henry Dunning, who became its Secretary General in 1958, peremptorily shut down the Joint Relief Mission that was set up with the Geneva Committee in 1940. The staff went on strike and demanded severance pay. The event was a shock to all, especially as it came on the heels of the Second World War, at a time when the League was actually running an operating surplus for the first time since its creation! Many more incidents like this have taken place, but the recent example of the ARC (American Red Cross) is particularly illustrative given its democratic foundations. The organisation has been no stranger to scandal since the era of its founder, Clara Barton. Over the last few years, it has lost several high-ranking members. The organisation's president, Bernadine Healy, was forced to resign in October 2001 because of her arrogance, her tendency to centralise , her intransigent position on the Israeli Red Shield society and her management of donations following the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Her successor, Vice-Admiral Marsha Evans, then left the ARC in December 2005 because of irregularities in aid distribution to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. A similar fate awaited Mark Everson, formerly a Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He took over as president in April 2007, and resigned six months later for engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate. In November 2007, he was replaced by Mary Elcano, a jurist previously employed by the federal post office.

-In its favour, the ARC does try to be democratic. Its dynamism contrasts sharply with dormant organisations where there is a dire shortage of volunteers and a crystallisation of leadership structures. The Burundi Red Cross, for example, has been run by Doctor François-Xavier Buyoya since 1967. In 2003, it only had 108 contributing members. In Senegal, the Red Cross has also experienced remarkable “continuity”. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was run by Doctor Rito Alcantara and, in the 1980s, by Mohamed Abdoulaye Diop. In Hong Kong, one man, Run Run Shaw, a film producer, headed the Red Cross for over thirty years. Only after the British enclave was handed over to China did women take control: Betty Tung in 1998, and Selina Tsang in 2005. This leadership problem affects countries across all continents. In Latin America, the situation of the Nicaraguan Red Cross has been edifying. Esperanza Bermúdez de Morales, the president of the organisation, clung to power from January 1994 to February 2008. Acting independently of the General Assembly, she managed to squeeze out her rival, vice-president Juan José Vanegas, and attempted to instate her son, Ricardo Bermúdez. When the latter tried to take charge of regional operations at Bluefields in October 2005, however, volunteers tried to break away and form their own organisation by occupying local headquarters. They were evicted by police, and one person was wounded. At the end of her mandate in December 2005, Esperanza Bermúdez de Morales put off holding internal elections, to the increasing anger of members. In spite of an IFRC circular condemning her actions in March 2007, she tried to modify the organisation’s statutes to allow for her fourth consecutive election. She was assisted by her son, who had conveniently been appointed as legal advisor. In February 2008, she was finally forced to leave by the Nicaraguan Red Cross Board and the government appointed Leonor Elizabeth Gallardo Rivera as her provisional replacement. European national societies have also experienced a crystallisation of leadership structures. The Austrian Red Cross (Österreichisches Rotes Kreuz), for instance, was headed by Adolf Pilz in 1945, Karl Seitz from 1946-1950 and Burghard Breitner from 1950-1956. Since then, however, it has been led by a string of doctors whose mandates have stretched across several decades: Hans von Lauda was president from 1956 to 1974; Heinrich Treichl, from 1974 to 1999; and Fredy Mayer, since 1999.

-National societies in Europe have also tended to recruit leaders of a certain social standing. Prospective candidates for key positions have often come from an elitist, aristocratic, and resolutely urban class. The French Red Cross, for example, was intially governed by a kind of dynasty with, successively, Duke Raymond de Montesquiou, his son-in-law Count Charles de Goyon and Count Emmanuel Flavigny, the brother-in-law of his predecessor. As for the Greek Red Cross, it was founded in 1877, its patron was Russia’s Queen Olga Konstantinovna (1851-1926), and it was led until his death by Marc Renieris (1815-1897), the Governor of the Greek National Bank. This aristocratic tendency continued in the 1960s: in Sweden with Princess Sybilla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1908-1972) and in Luxemburg with Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma (1893-1970). It is also present in countries with constitutional monarchies, where leaders are recruited from the nobility. In Great Britain, Angela Olivia, Countess of Limerick, was president of the Red Cross from 1974 until her death in 1981. Such leaders usually have very long mandates. Baron Jonkheer Guup Kraijenhoff, for example, was president of the Dutch Red Cross from 1966 until he was replaced by Jan van der Weel in 1986. After Prince Frédéric de Mérode led the Belgian Red Cross from 1954 until his death in 1958, the organisation was headed by the Prince of Liège (crowned King Albert II in 1993), then by the King’s daughter Princess Astrid from 1994 onwards. The case of Liechtenstein is even more extreme. Since the end of the Second World War, its Red Cross has only had two presidents, Georgina von Wilczek (1921-1989) from 1945 to 1985, and Marie-Aglaë von Wchinitz und Tettau (1940-) from 1985 on. Both women are married to sovereign princes.

-The tendency to recruit aristocratic leaders also applies to monarchies outside of Europe, from the Middle East to Asia, Africa or Oceania. Queen Halaevalu Mata’Aho, for example, has led the Tongan Red Cross since 1981. Obviously, national societies have followed a different course in countries where the monarchy has been abolished. This was the case for the Libyan Red Crescent, which was founded in 1957, or the Egyptian Red Cross, which was run by Soliman Azmi, a Pasha close to the king until the royal family was overthrown in 1952. In Iran, the Red Lion and Sun Society was led by Princess Chams Pahlavi until the Shah’s regime collapsed in 1979. In Ethiopia, the Crown Prince Merid Azmatch Asfa Wossen ran the Red Cross until the Negus was deposed in 1974. Finally, the Afghan Red Crescent was run by Akhter Mohammed under the patronage of Prince Ahmed Shah Khan when it was recognised by the ICRC in 1954, 31 years after its creation in 1923. But in countries where the monarchy or traditional chieftaincies have retained their importance, the aristocracy continues to play a role. In its early days, for instance, the Japanese Red Cross was presided by nobles like Tadanori Ishiguro from February 1917, a viscount in charge of medical services in the Army, or Shigenobu Hirayama from September 1920, a philanthropic baron. In Thailand, another constitutional monarchy, the Red Cross has always been closely linked to the royal family, including in the 1950s, when the organisation was led by Queen Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara (the wife of King Rama IX Bhumibol Adulyadej) and then in the 1980s by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Other Asian societies established more recently followed the same pattern. The Cambodian Red Cross, for example, was set up in 1955 under the patronage of the monarchy. Initially run by King Norodom Sihanouk’s aunt, Princess Norodom Rasmi Sobhana, leadership passed to his wife, Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk in 1967 until the Republican coup d’état of 1970. When the civil war ended in 1991, the organisation’s four factions – khmer rouge, royalist, republican and governmental – were reunited around a central committee in 1994 and presided until 1998 by Princess Norodom Marie Ranariddh under the patronage of Queen Norodom Monineath Sihanouk. In Nepal, the Red Cross was recognised by the ICRC in 1964 and headed by princesses Princep Shah from 1964 to 1981 and Helen Shah from 1981 to 1990. As for the Indonesian Red Cross, the PMI (Palang Merah Indonesia), it was set up in 1945, admitted to the League in 1950 and presided by Prince Paku Alam VIII from 1959 onwards, seeking prestige by co-opting nobles from the former sultanates.

-Red Crescent societies have had similar experiences. In Iran, the Red Lion and Sun Society was sponsored by the Shah, who passed a law in 1934 to allocate the organisation 20% of the revenues from all abandoned waqf charitable foundations under state control . In Morocco, the Red Crescent was recognised by the ICRC in 1958 and led by two sisters of King Hassan II, Princess Lalla Aïcha and Lalla Malika, who succeeded Mohamed Sebti and Jebli El Aïdounai. Set up in 1948, the Jordanian Red Crescent also enjoyed considerable support from the royal family . From 1964 on, the organisation was led by Senator Ahmed Abu-Goura and, from 1993 on, his son-in-law Doctor Muhammad al-Hadid. Under the patronage of the King, the organisation received many governmental grants while trying to develop its own fundraising to participate in the IFRC and support Bangladeshi, Indian, Sri Lankan and Philippine immigrants escaping from Kuwait after the invasion by Iraq in 1990. The Gulf Emirates have followed the same pattern. Created in 1978 and recognised by the ICRC in 1981, the Qatar national society has always been led by a member of Sheikh Ali Ben Jaber Al-Thani’s clan. Set up in 1933 and recognised by the ICRC in 1963, the Saudi Red Crescent is very close to the authorities too, despite the fact that its presidents, who have never been elected, do not come from the royal family and are professional doctors . Examples include Abdulaziz Mudarris up until 1982, Hamad Abdullah Al-Sugair from 1982-1999 and Abdul Rahman al-Swailem from 1999 onwards. The organisation i s part of the Ministry of Health, where the latter was second in charge from 1988 to 1997, and plays a key role in coordinating pilgrimages to Mecca.

-Given their close collaboration with governments, national societies often reflect their country’s power structures: whether these are monarchies, single party dictatorships or military juntas. As a result, their leaders may have clan or family ties with the authorities. When Tunisia became independent, for example, Habib Bourguiba named an advisor, Mohamed Aziz Djellouli, and his son-in-law, Doctor Chardly Zoutien, as president and vice-president of the local Red Crescent, set up in 1956. The wives of heads of state also play leading roles. In Singapore, Inche Yusuf bin Ishak’s wife, Toh Puan Noor Aishah, led the Red Cross from 1967 on. In Mexico, the wife of Carlos Salinas de Gortaris, Occelli de Salinas, took charge of the Red Cross in 1989. In Hong Kong, the wife of Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen (the head of the regional government), Salina Pow Siu Mei, headed the Red Cross from 2005. In some countries, the trend is so marked that it is almost possible to speak of dynasties. In Panama, for instance, the Red Cross is traditionally run by the wife of the head of state: Diana (married to Ramón Maximiliano Valdés) from 1917, or Pepita (married to Marco Robles) from 1966. The Egyptian Red Crescent works along the same lines, from Jihane Sadate to Suzanne Moubarak. In Cambodia, a kind of alternating system has been put in place. From 1994-1998, the Red Cross was led by Norodom Marie Ranariddh, whose husband became Prime Minister in 1993 and President of the National Assembly in 1998 as the royalist leader of the United National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia, FUNCINPEC (Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant, Neutre, Pacifique et Coopératif). Between 1998 and 2006, the organisation was headed by Bun Rany Sen, the wife of the Prime Minister and leader of the communist Cambodian People’s Party. In Mozambique, Janet Mondlane, was another variation on the same theme, when she  became the secretary general of the national Red Cross society in 1987 as the widow of the first president of the country after independence.

-Given their ties to authoritarian governments, some national societies have proved to be less than democratic, as their presidents are not elected by members or volunteers. According to Allan Rosas, one study carried out into 29 Red Cross organisations found that, in 25% of cases, leaders had been nominated or approved by their government. Internal regulations do little to counter this trend. During a meeting at Oxford in 1946, the Council of Governors of the League of Red Cross Societies (LRC) agreed on the principle of having a majority of elected members to outbalance government representatives on the boards of national societies. But the diversity of organisations made any attempt at homogenization difficult and the rule was not fully implemented. Legally, most national societies are considered to be private associations. However, some have adopted hybrid structures: the Finnish Red Cross, for example, underwent reform in 1950 and became a kind of public corporation partly subject to administrative law. During further meetings at Toronto in 1953 and Mexico in 1971, the LRC’s Council of Governors attempted to develop organisational standards inspired by French legislation on associations. Its recommendations  proved unsuitable and were replaced by a new code in 2000.

-Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to caricature all national societies as mere extensions of their government. Some have very difficult relations with the authorities. In South Vietnam, for instance, the local Red Cross was targeted by the government of Ngô Dinh Diêm because it protested against arbitrary arrests and detentions without judgements. As a result, the regime stopped its subsidies, forbade the organisation to raise funds in the streets and confiscated its health centres, which were transferred to municipal councils. After a mutiny in Saigon in November 1960, Ngô Dinh Diêm eventually arrested and replaced the leaders of the national society: its president, its general secretary and a member of its central committee, who were kept in jail for several months. Likewise in Brazil, the Red Cross board, located in Rio de Janeiro and not in the capital Brasilia, was suspended and dissolved by the military junta from 1968 to 1971. In Bolivia, the president of the Red Cross, Doctor Celso Rossell Santa Cruz, brought the government before the Supreme Court to quash a decree of 24 January 1968 which rendered the organisation ineligible for funding from the national lottery, and placed its childcare centres and medical dispensaries under the control of the Ministry of Health . In Sudan, the Red Crescent used to be secular. Consequently, the board was dissolved when an Islamic military junta took power in June 1989. Moreover, some national societies are relatively independent of government grants. In this respect, the American Red Cross is a good example. With one of the most sophisticated fund-raising schemes, it receives donations from individuals, companies and private foundations. In the 1950s, its president, Ellsworth Bunker, even claimed that in the field of natural disaster relief, it had never received public subsidies. A counter-example is the Canadian Red Cross, where scandal caused the state to reduce its financial support from 87% of the organisation’s budget in 1989 to 67% in 1994 and 58% in 2004.

-In most cases, however, national societies work on good terms with the authorities and have similar views on medical and health issues. Even in democratic countries, they can play a parastatal role. In the United States, for example, the Red Cross runs the national blood bank and organises civil defence. In Norway, it is charged with distributing government aid in international humanitarian crises. Moreover, national societies are often administered by civil servants or retired military staff, acting under presidents who were formerly Ministers of Health or Social Affairs, such as Fredy Mayer in Austria, Jean-François Mattéi in France, Karl Kennel in Switzerland, Leendert Cornelis “Elco” Brinkman in Holland and Sushila Nayyar in India. In Western Germany, the Red Cross has been presided by a former Minister of Finance for North Westphalia, Doctor Heinrich Weitz in 1952-1961, state secretaries like Hans Ritter von Lex in 1961-1967 or Walter Bargatzky in 1967-1982, and a prominent member of the Christian Democrat Party (the CDU or Christlich Demokratische Union), Botho Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein in 1982-1994. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the two German Red Crosses, the organisation was run from 1994 by Knut Ipsen, a university Vice-Chancellor, and from 2003, by Rudolf Seiters, a CDU Minister of Internal Affairs.

-National societies are sometimes led by acting members of the government. Set up as a branch of the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) in April 1945, independent since September 1960 and recognised by the ICRC in June 1961, the Nigerian Red Cross was initially headed by the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa (1912-1966). In Malaysia, where the Red Cross became a Red Crescent under a law passed on 21 May 1975, the organisation was run from 1972 by Tun Abdul Razak (1922-1976), the Prime Minister since 1970. As for the IRCS (Indian Red Cross Society), it is led by a secretary general under the patronage of the President of the Republic in office. During the 1980s, for instance, it was run by Muhammad Hidayatullah (1905-1992) and Ramaswamy Venkataraman (1910-2009), who were respectively in power in 1969 and from 1987-1992. In other words, the organisation was mainly led by civil servants until a reform of 1994 allowed 12 of the 18 members of its board to be elected by regional branches of the IRCS.

-The American Red Cross (ARC) is a textbook example because of its close ties to the White House under the presidency of  William Howard Taft (1857-1930) from 1906, Henry « Harry » Pomeroy Davison (1867-1922) from 1917, Livingston Farrand (1867-1939) from 1919, John Barton Payne (1855-1935) from 1921, Cary Grayson (1878-1938) from 1935, Norman Davis (1878-1944) from 1938, Basil O’Connor (1892-1972) from 1944, George Catlett Marshall (1880-1959) from 1949, Roland Harriman (1895-1978) from 1950, Ellsworth Bunker (1894-1984) from 1954, Alfred Gruenther (1899-1983) from 1957, James Collins (1905-1989) from 1964, George McKee Elsey (1918-) from 1970, Frank Stanton (1908-2006) from 1973, Jerome « Brud » Holland (1916-1985) from 1979, Richard Schubert (1937-) from 1983, George Moody (1930-2005) from 1985, Elizabeth Dole (1936-) from 1991, Norman Augustine (1935-) from 1992, Bernadine Healy (1944-) from 1999, David McLaughlin (1932-2004) from 2001, Marsha « Marty » Johnson Evans (1947-) from 2002, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter (1950-) from 2004, Mark Everson in 2007 and Mary Elcano from 2008. Since 1913, the President of the United States has been the organisation’s honorary president and, since 1905, he has had the right to name the chairman of his or her choice. Consequently, the ARC has often been run by politicians or members of the military. With a few exceptions like Livingston Farrand, a professor at Colorado University, its chairme n all belonged to one of the major political parties. William Howard Taft, a Republican, was President of the United States from 1909 to 1913. Henry Davison, who led the ARC between May 1917 and February 1919, was a banker charged by Democrat President Woodrow Wilson with fundraising for the army during World War One. The chairman of the organisation from October 1921 up until his death from pneumonia in January 1935, John Barton Payne, was a Democrat judge and Secretary of the Interior in 1920. His successor, Rear Admiral Cary Grayson, was a personal friend and the doctor of Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt. Norman Davis, a Democrat diplomat, headed the organisation during World War Two, from February 1938 to July 1944. His successor, Basil O’Connor, was Franklin Roosevelt’s law partner: the two men  set up  the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation to fight polio in 1921, then the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1932. General George Catlett Marshall, who led the ARC from October 1949, was another Democrat, and had been Chief of Staff for the American Army from 1939 to 1945. During Harry Truman’s presidency, he was Secretary of State from 1947 to 1948 before taking on the Defence portfolio at the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The procession of diplomats and military personalities at the head of the American Red Cross continued after the Second World War. Its chair between 1954 and 1956, Ellsworth Bunker, had been an ambassador to Argentina, Italy and India: he resigned from the organisation to pursue his diplomatic career, notably in South Vietnam, where he was based from 1967 until the withdrawal of American troops in 1973. As for Dr. Jerome Holland, the first Black to preside the ARC (from 1979 to 1985), he was an American ambassador to Sweden in 1970. Similarly, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter was ambassador to Finland in 2001-2003 before taking the reins of the organisation in 2004. In addition to diplomats, there has been no shortage of military personnel at the head of the American Red Cross. General Alfred Gruenther, for instance, led the organisation between 1957 and 1964, after being Chief of Staff for the Allied Forces in Europe in 1951. His successor until 1970, General James Collins, was a veteran of the Korean War (1950-1953). A key actor in Franklin Roosevelt’s intelligence service during the Second World War, George McKee Elsey then  chaired the ARC from 1970 to 1982. Later on, Marsha Johnson Evans, who headed the organisation from 2002 to 2005, was one of the first women to be admitted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1997. Nor were other ARC chairs strangers to politics . Frank Stanton, for instance, had been president of CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) from 1973-1979, and organised the famous debate between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential elections. Head of the American Red Cross f rom 1983 to 1989, Richard Schubert was a former Under Secretary of Labour in the Richard Nixon administration in 1973.  F rom 1999 to 2001, Bernadine Healy was a cardiologist by profession and a Republican candidate for the Senate in Ohio. F rom 1991 to 1999, Elizabeth Dole was a former Republican Secretary of Transportation under Ronald Reagan in 1983 and a Secretary of Labour under George Bush in 1989. After her husband Richard Dole’s unsuccessful campaign for the White House in 1996, she retired from the ARC to pursue her own political career, which also included running for the US presidency.

-In sum, Red Cross societies are rarely untouched by domestic politics, given their leadership and management structures. They sometimes help the victims of all sides in foreign conflicts where their own military do not intervene. But they give priority to their troops when their government is at war, especially within their country. Focused on national issues, their loyalty towards the IFRC or the ICRC is often called into question. Donald Tansley, for example, noted that the representatives of Red Crosses in Geneva answered first to their own country before serving the LRC . In addition, national societies have often proved incapable of resisting political turmoil at home. In Belgium, for instance, the tensions between Dutch and French-speaking sections of the population led the Red Cross to modify its statutes in April 2004. Officially, it is still one legal entity despite the political crisis after the June 2007 elections. Unofficially, however, it has actually split into two linguistic groups with independent accounting and management systems. Communitarian committees now decide on the organisation’s funding, budget and strategic objectives, the Flemish aiming to reduce financial transfers to the Walloon branches of the Red Cross.

-Civil wars are a further source of internal tension for national societies, and can even lead to their disintegration. True , the opposite can also take place when the fighting is over or countries are reunited, for instance in Yugoslavia in 1946, Vietnam in 1975 and Germany in 1991. A further example occurred when Syria and Egypt briefly formed a United Arab Republic; their Red Crescents merged u nder the chairmanship of Hussein El Shafei in 1959. Interestingly enough, the Federation of Malaya experienced both extension and disintegration. Initially a branch of the British Red Cross, its national society became independent in October 1957 and absorbed the Committees of Sarawak and Sabah when these two regions on Borneo Island joined the government on the Malaysian Peninsula, giving rise to a new organisation recognised by the ICRC in July 1963. In August 1965, however, the Singapore branch seceded when the city-state gained independence from Kuala Lumpur. It later formed its own national society, created in April 1973 and recognised by the ICRC five months later. Generally speaking, national societies are severely affected by political tensions. The Cold War, in particular, caused divisions in Germany in 1948, China and Taiwan in 1949, Korea in 1950 and Vietnam in 1954. The case of the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) is interesting, as it has been subject to both centralizing and decentralizing trends. In January 1921, all the country’s regional committees were grouped under one organisation, with its office in Berlin. After World War II, however, this trend was reversed. The organisation was purged by the Allied Forces and placed under the control of Princess Margaret, an Englishwoman married to Prince Louis of Hesse. Until August 1946, the occupying troops prohibited communication between provinces and the movement of supplies between the British, American, French and Soviet forces. These administrative hurdles, in addition to the effects of the Cold War and the country’s division into East and West, soon led to the DRK’s complete disintegration. The organisation quite simply ceased to exist after being dissolved by the Soviets in October 1945 and forbidden by the French forces from January 1946 until April 1947. In Coblenz on 4 February 1950, Otto Gessler then set up a West German Red Cross,  which was recognised by the ICRC on 26 June 1952. In East Berlin, an equivalent organisation was launched on 26 February 1951, when the country became the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Recognised by the communist government in October 1952 and the ICRC in October 1954, its presidents were professors of medicine: Werner Ludwig from 1952 to 1981, Siegfried Akkermann from 1981 to 1987, Gerhard Rehwald from 1987 to 1989 and Christoph Brückner in 1990. But following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the organisation was reunited with its western counterpart in November 1990.

-Civil wars can cause the complete disintegration of national societies. This was the case in Lebanon, for instance. Presided by the Marquise Moussa of Freige prior to 1964 and by her daughter Alexandra Issa El-Khoury from 1964 to 1991, the organisation split when its committee in the Chouf region seceded in 1989 and set up its own short-lived Red Cross and Red Crescent society. Another example is Cambodia. After the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, the Red Cross split into four factions: khmer rouge, royalist, republican and governmental. These groups were not reunited under a central committee until the end of the war in February 1992. Statutes were then adopted in April 1994, revised in June 2000 and confirmed by royal decree in May 2002 to ensure the legal continuity of the organisation from February 1955 onwards, when it was first created. The effects of civil war on national societies are perhaps best seen, however, in Yugoslavia. From 1991 onwards, the Red Cross literally imploded, despite relatively stable beginnings. Dating back to 1923, the organisation was set up in what was known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. From 1929, it became known as the Red Cross of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1946, it adopted a federal structure, merging the national societies of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia (founded in 1875, 1876 and 1945 respectively). Run by Dr. Pavle Gregori? (a Croatian) in the 1960s, leadership passed to Olga Miloševi? (a Serbian) in the 1980s, Dr. Branislav Pesi? (a Montenegrin) at the end of the decade, and Dr. Miljenko Brki? (a Bosnian and a member of the Bosnia Herzegovina government) in 1991. The organisation’s presidents were, therefore, fairly representative of the country’s makeup. Nevertheless, this was not sufficient to preserve the society from the Serbian nationalist pressures of Slobodan Miloševi? after 1989. In the Red Cross and Red Crescent Magazine in 1998, Iolanda Jaquemet described the effect of the collapse of the one party regime on the Yugoslavian Red Cross. Not only did the organisation lose its public utility status, it also lost the privileges that went along with it. In other words, the organisation was no longer subject to tax exemptions, it no longer had a monopoly in the field of emergency relief and it no longer received funds from the national lottery or tickets to cultural events. With the exception of Slovenia, where fundraising activities based on individual donations were successfully developed, the Red Cross became dependent on the municipal authorities that paid its salaries. Predictably, some of these authorities took advantage of their position to dismiss employees from “rival” communities. In 1991, for example, the Serbian Parliament shut down the Kosovo Red Cross and fired its Albanian employees. As for the Slovenian and Croatian branches of the Red Cross, they seceded and were recognised as independent organisations by the ICRC on 25 August 1993. Ethnic tensions ran high. In Eastern Slavonia, two separate branches of the Red Cross coexisted until the region came back under Zagreb’s control in January 1998: one organisation for Serbians who had stayed there, and another for Croats returning from exile. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, there were three Red Cross chapters : one for each of the conflicting parties. In areas controlled by Croats or Muslim Bosnians, the Mostar, Prozor, Jablanica and Vitez branches operated completely independently of Serbian branches . Even after the Dayton Peace Agreement of November 1995, the “Red Cross of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina” founded in October 1997 only brought together the Croat-Muslim sections of the organisation. Not until December 2000 were they joined by their Serbian counterpart. As for the Yugoslavian Red Cross, presided by Radovan Mijanovi? since 1995, it has continued to lose ground since Montenegro and Kosovo were declared independent in June 2006 and February 2008 respectively.

-Events like these lead to serious concerns for the reliability of national organisations. Incapable of withstanding the pressure of domestic politics, they are also subject to national, ethnic, religious and ideological tensions. For the ICRC, three major issues are important. Firstly, organisations may be inefficient. Secondly, they may be involved in military activities. Thirdly, they may be discriminatory, going against humanitarian principles and the Committee’s own impartial status. From an operational point of view, organisations recognised by Geneva can be inefficient for several reasons. Firstly, they may be structurally inactive with insufficient resources for relief missions. Secondly, they may be too slow in reacting to events. After the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001, for instance, the ARC (American Red Cross) was criticised for not being immediately present on the scene: the organisation’s president reacted by firing senior staff in the emergency response department, attracting the hostility of other employees. One month later, she was forced to resign. Thirdly, national societies may undertake missions with unexpected and undesired consequences. A case in point is the British Red Cross which, unaware of the cancer risks associated with smoking, distributed cigarettes to wounded servicemen during the Second World War. Fourthly, national societies are sometimes involved in missions that never even get off the ground. An example is the Turkish Red Crescent organisation. Known as the Türkiye Kizilay Derne?i since 1935, it was severely criticised following two earthquakes that devastated the north west of the country in 1999. These deficiencies led to the organisation’s modernisation and the appointment of a new president, Tekin Kücükali, who followed figures such as Ali Rana Tarhan in the 1950s or Riza Cerçel in the early 1970s. Finally, national societies may provoke collateral damages. To accommodate Rom families after flooding in 2010, the Hungarian Red Cross thus exacerbated a local conflict by buying houses within a contested village, Gyöngyöspata, where the right wing militia of the Jobik party was already fighting “gypsy criminals”.

-For many national societies, supervising transfusion services and managing stocks of donated blood is a recurrent problem . Countries where Red Crosses play this role include El Salvador (since 1944), the United States (since 1948), Japan (since 1952), Poland (since 1964), Columbia (since 1966), Ethiopia (since 1969), Switzerland (1949-1999) and Canada (1947-1998). The Belgian Red Cross, for example, was responsible for approximately 95% of the country’s blood collection. Its Canadian counterpart dealt with up to one million donors each year, and the American Red Cross filled half of the country’s blood banks. This trend is also visible in developing countries like Jordan, where the Red Crescent was presided by the former director of the kingdom’s blood bank, Doctor Muhammad al-Hadid, from 1993. In the Philippines, the PNRC (Philippines National Red Cross) has had a monopoly over the sale and commercialisation of donated blood since 1997. Pursuant to Law 7719, the private sector’s involvement in this domain is prohibited. Consequently, a considerable part of the PNRC’s revenues come from its activities in this area, which are under the control of the Ministry of Health. However, such a specialization has not been free of controversy. In Burundi in 2003, the media criticized the national society for selling blood that had been donated by volunteers free of charge. The American Red Cross (ARC) has been accused of spreading contaminated blood. In order to sell blood at prices that undercut the market, it contracted debts, underpaid employees and failed to apply tests for impurities. Little regard being paid to donors’ medical histories, tracing the origin of contaminated donations became extremely difficult. After eight years of investigations and ineffectual recommendations, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) finally began proceedings against the ARC for negligence in 1993. But this was not the end of the story. Following the wave of donations after the World Trade Centre attacks in New York in September 2001, further deficiencies in blood quality were observed. And the problem arose yet again after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005. Even though volunteers flocked to give blood, the ARC persisted in calling for further donors and ended up with excess stock, which it was forced to destroy at the end of its 42-day use-by period. The organisation’s continued failure to respect sanitary regulations led to a $10,000 per day fine at the end of 2001, which it was condemned to pay until practices improved. Meanwhile, the FDA still observed more infractions during visits to collection centres in Salt Lake City and New York. In November 2006, the authorities finally sentenced the ARC to a US$5.7 million fine.

-The biggest scandal as a result of blood transfusions involves the CRCS (Canadian Red Cross Society). Like its American counterpart, it was accused of carelessly carrying out blood collection using less than professional standards. The organisation was warned of the AIDS risk in December 1982, but only began testing donated blood in November 1985. Fearing shortages, it continued to collect blood from high-risk sources, including American prisoners and communities with large homosexual populations, like San Francisco. To save money, the organisation then tried to sell contaminated stocks, put off systematic testing for AIDS, and refused to test for Hepatitis C. While the CRCS itself was only part of a larger problem, it did contribute to infecting about 2,000 people with AIDS between 1980 and 1985, and 30,000 people with Hepatitis C between 1980 and 1999. Even when the extent of the tragedy became apparent, the organisation did not contact those who had been infected, despite the fact that 8,000 of them risked death as a result of illnesses contracted during blood transfusions. Nor did the CRCS offer treatment. Instead, it destroyed any compromising documents that would have helped identify victims and stop the spread of the virus. The organisation also negotiated with the Ministry of Health to put a halt to demands for compensation. Under its presidents Janet Davidson from 1995 and Pierre Duplessis from 1997, it attempted to protect its leaders while an unprecedented judicial saga was in the making. A public enquiry was launched, headed by Judge Horace Krever. Despite the CRCS’s best efforts to get in his way, a damning report was released in November 1997 after four years of investigations. Federal authorities took charge of blood transfusion activities and transferred them in July 1997 to public organisations, the Canadian Blood Society and Héma-Québec. The CRCS, sapped dry by legal battles, found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. This was exacerbated by cuts in public funding; the organisation received only $CA 252 million in 2004, compared to $CA 462 million in 1994. Given its precarious financial position, the CRCS feared having to pay compensation to victims and tried to block the course of justice. As a result, only its director from 1974-1986, Doctor Roger Perrault, was put on trial for criminal negligence in February 2006; the organisation’s president in the late 1980s, Alan Watson, had worked in the pharmaceutical industry and was not called into question . The judicial saga ended up costing the taxpayer nearly $10 billion. Only in May 2005 did the organisation finally plead guilty in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and Doctor Pierre Duplessis, the Secretary General, officially apologise to victims. In terms of compensation, the organisation grudgingly agreed to dedicate part of its revenues from blood transfusion activities (around $1.5 million) to medical research and scholarships for the children of families concerned.

-Unfortunately, inefficiency is not the only problem that national societies pose for the ICRC. Whether operating under democratic or authoritarian regimes, s tructural limits also restrict their humanitarian activities, especially  during wartime when they are incorporated into the army and forbidden to provide relief to the “enemy”. In some cases, they play an active role in their countries’ military efforts, as seen above in the chronology prior to 1914 or in a later section dedicated to interaction between the Red Cross and armed forces. In the meantime, it is enough to mention that national societies can be caught up in state militarism as well as in militant movements. Founded in 1969 and eventually recognised by the ICRC in 2006, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), for instance, was led by Yasser Arafat’s younger brother, Doctor Fathi, between 1978 and 2004. Initially, it was considered the “humanitarian” branch of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) and its militant branch, Fatah. The organisation supported armed struggle against Israel and did not seek to distance itself from terrorist activities. However, after the Oslo Agreement and the creation of a quasi-state in the occupied territories in 1994, the PRCS took part in setting up the Palestinian Ministry of Health and, in 1996, moved its headquarters from Jericho to al-Bireh in order to be closer to the country’s administrative capital, Ramallah. Nevertheless, the organisation was again involved in military activities during the second Intifada. According to the Israeli, it was used as cover by terrorists (including the first Palestinian woman kamikaze) to get through army checkpoints in Jerusalem and Nablus in February 2002. Explosives were found in one of its ambulances and militants used one of its buildings near Ramallah to shoot at Israeli soldiers. In spite of protests by the ICRC over misuse of the Red Crescent emblem, nine members of the PRCS’s senior staff were arrested by Israeli forces on 3 April 2002. Among them was Younis al-Khatib, who was later to replace Fathi Arafat at the head of the organisation. PRCS ambulance drivers were accused of knowingly transporting terrorists. In an attempt to prove its neutrality, the organisation signed a cooperative agreement with its Jewish counterpart, the Red Shield Society (Maguen David Adom) in December 2000 . This was not enough to alleviate the suspicions of Israel , which continued to search all convoys crossing the frontline: some were blocked, seized or even used as human shields against combatants in the occupied territories.

-Another important point is that national societies may also intervene in military activities abroad, outside of their own country. For political, ideological, geographical, ethnic or religious reasons, some have deliberately supported guerrillas or allied government forces in foreign conflicts, going so far as to distribute propaganda or help distribute arms. Several examples illustrate this. Firstly, militants may abusively use the emblem to cover up movements of troops or arms without the permission of national societies. In an article published on 30 November 1994 by a Belgian magazine, Télémoustique, Jan Segers, a UN military observer to Bosnia, claimed to have witnessed a helicopter painted with the Red Cross distributing crates of weapons to Atif Dudakovic’s Muslim forces in Cazin that year. In this case, however, no particular national society was implicated. But in February 2001, journalists from Burundi explicit ly accused the Tanzanian Red Cross of wilfully supplying arms to the Forces for the Defence of Democracy and members of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People, led by Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiye and Cossan Kabura in the border region of Kigoma.

-Red Crescents in particular have been known to support Arab and Islamic liberation movements on several occasions. A case in point is the Egyptian society. During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the organisation took no pains to hide its sympathies for the Palestinian cause when it was presided by Mahmoud Mahfouz, the Minister of Health under Anouar el-Sadate in the late 1970s. Prior to that, Mahmoud Hamchari, the organisation’s representative to France in the late 1960s, even expressed these sympathies openly. Another example is Afghanistan. After supporting Bosnian Muslims in 1995 and 1996, the Iranian Red Crescent was suspected of supplying arms (disguised as medical provisions) to the Shiite community to combat the Taliban regime in 1997. As for the Saudi Arabian Red Crescent Society (SARCS), Millard Burr and Robert Collins explain that it gave around 1 million riyals or US$27 million per year to fund Afghan resistance to the Red Army between 1984 and 1992. In Pakistan’s Kachagari refugee camp , it also backed a Palestinian Doctor, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam , who laid the foundations of Al-Qaeda before being killed in combat in 1989 and replaced by Wael Hamza Julaidan at the head of the MAK (Maktab al-Khadamat al-Mujahidin al-Arab), the Mujahideen Support Office. Inside Afghanistan, the SARCS helped transport arms delivered by the American CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and distributed supplies to freedom fighters via the Pakistani IIS (Inter-Intelligence Service). After 1985, the organisation’s activities were run from Peshawar by Doctor Ayman Muhammad Rabie al-Zawahiri and Wael Hamza Julaidan. A member of the Egyptian Jihad, the former had already worked for the SARCS in Pakistan between 1980 and 1981; jailed in Cairo for the illegal possession of firearms, he was released in 1984 and went into exile in the Sudan, where he used the cover of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent in 1991 to travel to Europe and America in order to collect funds for the “holy war”. Also known as Abu Hasan al-Madani, the latter was close to Osama bin Laden and helped set up Al-Qaeda in Peshawar in 1988. Only after the attacks on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 did Pakistani authorities finally decided to deport SARCS employees. The organisation had been in the spotlight since April 2000 when UN peacekeepers searched its offices in Pristina, Kosovo, and discovered documents linking it to Al-Qaeda and Wael Hamza Julaidan, the then Secretary General of the Rabita Trust in Pakistan.

-National societies may also be influenced by militant movements supporting violence for a “good cause”. Once again, this is particularly the case for Red Crescent societies, at times swayed by the arguments of Islamic fundamentalists. One example is Ayman al-Zawahiri, a member of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent who visited the United States during a fundraising mission in 1995. In addition to being Osama bin Laden’s personal doctor, he was sentenced to death by an Egyptian court after being implicated in the attack on the American Embassy in Nairobi in 1998. Similarly, the Emirati Red Crescent used goods confiscated in 1997 to the Abu-Dhabi Welfare Organisation, a charity which was suspected of supporting the jihad of the Gamaat Islamiya in Egypt. In the Balkans, it has also been accused of collaborating with the Global Relief Foundation, an organisation linked to Al-Qaeda and involved in planning attacks on Western interests in Pristina, where its offices were searched and several staff members arrested by the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in December 2001. Since its arrival in the region after the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) bombings in June 1999, the Emirati Red Crescent had supported various religious activities. In brochures quoted by Xavier Pauly, for instance, it promoted school programmes designed to teach the local Albanian Muslim population of the dangers of the Western way of life. However, unlike other organisations such as the International Islamic Relief Organisation or the Al-Haramayn Foundation, it did not restrict its aid to Muslims and assisted Orthodox Serbs in parts of Kosovo patrolled by KFOR’s Emirati contingent. As a matter of fact, Red Crescents are not the only national societies to be recognised by the ICRC on the one hand, and condone violence in certain circumstances on the other hand. Some Red Crosses took sides and supported political struggles too. Opposed to the British Empire, Irish volunteers of the American Red Cross fought along with the French in 1870 and the South African Boers in 1900. Later on, national societies in Northern Europe backed freedom fighters during decolonisation. The Finnish Red Cross, for example, was very involved in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Pär Stenbäck, i ts Secretary General in 1985-1988 and President after a brief stint at the IFRC until 1992, held strong views on the matter. Under the banner of a Finnish Committee set up in Helsinki in April 1965, he took part in fundraising for guerrillas of the South-West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) in Namibia. With the Finnish Communist Party SKP (Suomen Kommunistinen Puolue), the Finnish Democrat League SKDL (Suomen Kansan Demokraattinen Liitto) and the Swedish People’s Party RKP (Ruotsalainen Kansan Puolue), he also formed a “Committee for South Africa” to lead a boycott campaign against the government in Pretoria from May 1966 onwards. Interestingly enough, the Minister of Justice in Helsinki refused to register the organisation on the grounds that it would be prejudicial to Finland’s foreign relations. The “Committee for South Africa” finally took shape as the Finnish branch of the International Defence and Aid Fund (IDAF) in 1968, an NGO set up in London in 1953 by Christian Aid to assist and support prisoners who opposed the apartheid regime, especially militants of the African National Congress (ANC).

-Obviously, initiatives promoting armed struggles go against the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, regardless of the circumstances. The gap between theory and practice, however, is great. This contradiction is particularly evident when national societies are run by members of coercive state organisations . Examples include Nazi Germany, where Ernest Grawitz, an officer of the SS (Schutzstaffel), ran the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) at the end of the 1930s, and Indonesia, where a Minister of the Interior, General Basuki Rachmat, ran the PMI (Palang Merah Indonesia) in the 1960s. Nor is this trend limited to third world dictatorships. In Europe, the Spanish Red Cross is one example. During Francisco Franco’s reign (1939-1975), it was headed by Antonio Maria de Oriol y Urquijo, a minister and head of the Council of State from 1973-1979. He took over from a duke who had presided the Cruz Roja Española during the 1960s. The situation was even more blatant in the Yugoslavian crisis of 1991, when the Red Cross split into several factions, each defending a different national interest. In Belgrade, the organisation’s Secretary General was a member of Slobodan Miloševi?’s party and candidate in local elections. In the Serbian part of Bosnia from 1994 onwards, the local Red Cross was run by Ljiljana Zelen-Karadzi?, the wife of the Republika Srpska’s “president” , Radovan Karadzi?, who has since been indicted for war crimes. She violated the Geneva Conventions and was involved in ethnic cleansing operations before being dismissed in 1998. In the northwest of the Republika Srpska, for instance, the director of the Red Cross in Prijedor was charged with managing the Trnopoplje detention centre. The Muslim-Croat opposition, however, did not always fare better, and the Drvar section of the Red Cross was accused of playing an ambiguous role in clashes that led to the death of two Serbian civilian returnees.

-The Nazi German Red Cross went even further and was involved in many atrocities, but was not repudiated by the ICRC. As early as 29 November 1933, the DRK (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz) was placed under the direct control of Adolf Hitler's government and his Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick, who was in charge of repressing the civil society that emerged during the Weimar Republic. Women were removed from key positions, the Nazi ideology proclaiming male superiority, and the organisation’s focus shifted to spearheading veterans’ associations. In 1934, Joachim von Winterfeldt-Menkin, the DRK’s president since 1919, was ousted, and in 1937, his Secretary General, Paul Draudt, likewise ended his term (in this position since 1922, he had unified and reconstructed the German Red Cross after World War One). These leadership changes also affected the rank-and-file: the Nazi swastika became part of the emblem and all volunteers were required to swear allegiance to the Führer. On 9 December 1937, the organisation was officially militarised; on 24 December 1937, new statutes were adopted which dissolved the 9,000 local committees and centralised the organisation around 13 regional branches. From this point onwards, only the Führer could hire and fire the president of the DRK. In 1934, he appointed Carl-Eduard Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and a member of the National Socialist Party. The Duke was however of a considerable age and handed over the day-to-day running of the organisation to Doctor Ernest Grawitz, a member of the SS (Schutzstaffel), in 1936. As a result, any signs of resistance within the DRK were swiftly and firmly quashed. One victim of this policy was Alexandrine von Üxküll-Gyllenband, who had worked for the ICRC in Upper Silesia. She was sent to a concentration camp after her brother was executed for plotting against Adolf Hitler. Another was Otto Gessler, deported to Ravensbrück after taking part in an assassination attempt against the Führer in July 1944. He was eventually released in February 1945 and became president of the Bavarian Red Cross in July 1949. Of course, the Nazi influence over the DRK was at its strongest during the Second World War. As an integral part of the Third Reich, the organisation first concentrated its efforts on treating wounded soldiers from September 1939, before turning to the civilian victims of Allied bombings on German towns from August 1943. Under the leadership of its director, Ernest Grawitz, and president, Karl Gebhardt, both members of the SS, the DRK turned a blind eye to Jewish deportees and Soviet prisoners of war. Even worse, it carried out medical experiments in concentration camps. After the Nazis were defeated on 8 May 1945, Ernest Grawitz committed suicide. Karl Gebhardt was sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Tribunal on 21 August 1947, and executed on 30 May 1948. Meanwhile, the ICRC still kept contact with the DRK. When it went to negotiate the release of prisoners at Ravensbrück in April 1945, for example, it hired Doctor Hans Meyer, a former assistant to Karl Gebhart.

-The case of the DRK is symptomatic of a much larger problem: many national organisations are unable to remain impartial. As such, they are the weakest part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. They are far more susceptible to national, racial, religious, social and political pressure when it comes to providing assistance to individuals in need. In addition to Nazi Germany, this has been a problem in countries that have applied racial segregation: the United States until the 1960s and South Africa until the early 1990s. This has also been an issue for Red Crescent organisations in countries where non-Muslim minorities are deliberately ignored, like the Baha’i in Iran. Several factors explain such discrimination . National societies may be following the ideologies of racist regimes, o r discriminate for operational reasons. When Norway, Denmark and the Baltic Countries were invaded in 1939, for instance, the neutral Swedish Red Cross found itself applying double standards when assisting foreigners caught up in the turmoil. While German, Polish and Russian nationals were treated by the government as prisoners-of-war and sent to camps, British and American citizens were considered as “administrative detainees” and held in hotels. Another example is the American Red Cross, as Ellsworth Bunker explains. While soldiers must pay for its services during war-time, civilians receive free treatment when they are victims of natural disasters. This double standard is in part due to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, when the organisation was brought before the courts because survivors of the earthquake refused to reimburse the interest-free loans it had given them.

-In most cases, national societies reflect the racial or class prejudices of the authorities under which they operate. During the First World War, for example, European Red Cross organisations were accused of favouring commissioned officers over the rank-and-file. Inspired by the eugenic movement in the early 1920s, the League of Red Cross also advocated sterilisation and incarceration as ways of dealing with deviants, while promoting marriage and monogamy to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. In doing so, the ancestor of today’s IFRC acted in line with the views of some members who wanted to assist only those “who really deserved it”. This approach was particularly visible in the United States, where beneficiaries had to work to receive aid, in order to discourage laziness. According to Lester Jones, a Quaker from the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), the ARC (American Red Cross) refused to give food to the unemployed during the economic depression of 1920 on the grounds that they had refused pay cuts in 1917, and therefore caused their own downfall. As a matter of fact, the Victorian Anglo-Saxon sphere of influence was very much impregnated with the social theories of Darwinism and natural selection, especially in the British Empire. Even after independence in India, for instance, Sushila Nayyar, the Minister of Health and chair of the IRCS (Indian Red Cross Society) from 1964, supported prohibiting alcohol and coercive family planning policies.

-In sum, national societies recognised by the ICRC can be obstacles to humanitarian activities through their involvement in war crimes or discrimination amongst victims. On several occasions, they have scuppered attempts by the Geneva Committee to launch relief programmes, as with the British in Ireland in 1922, the Japanese in China from 1931, the Germans with respect to Jews from 1933, and the Italians in Ethiopia in 1936. In Lebanon, for instance, the French Red Cross only assisted Maronite Christians and prevented other ICRC activities when some Muslim groups rebelled in Djebel Druze in July 1925. As the French government had recently blocked access to Morocco during the Rif War , the Geneva Committee decided to intervene in December 1925 without seeking approval from Paris. Its envoy was Raymond Schlemmer, a French delegate who had previously worked in the Balkans in 1921-1922, Ireland in 1923 and Morocco in 1924. In Lebanon, he was not given authorisation to access Djebel Druze, nor did he have the means to carry out all the activities the ICRC had hoped to accomplish. French colonial troops were suspicious of the Committee, fearing it would provide supplies to the rebels. As a result, the ICRC’s actions were limited to distributing medical supplies to a hospital in Soueida and did not extend to resettling displaced persons after the end of the revolt in April 1926. Nevertheless, Geneva had the full support of Henri de Jouvenel, the French High Commissioner in Beirut, who encouraged the Committee to set up an agency providing assistance to all the victims of conflicts in Syria and Lebanon in December 1925. According to Dzovinar Kévonian, the ICRC was to supervise private humanitarian initiatives and justify France’s position in colonies under the mandate of the League of Nations. This coordinating role also helped the Committee to assert its predominance and to circumvent the LRC’s boycott of the 12th International Red Cross Conference, which was initially planned for Geneva in October 1925. In the field, many national societies were less than cooperative. The American Red Cross, one of the LRC’s leaders, refused to fund any ICRC activities whatsoever in the region. As for the Lebanese branch of the French Red Cross, it bore no resemblance at all – in thought or deed – to an affiliated society, according to Georges Burnier, who replaced Raymond Schlemmer in January 1926. In fact, the Turkish Red Crescent was almost the only one to assist the ICRC . L ed by a former Ottoman official, Ahmed Ishan Bey, it organised fundraising in the Arab world, and had already offered its support during the Rif War. Its initiative was beneficial to both parties. For the ICRC, it meant reinforcing ties with a society that had refused to join the LRC. For Ankara, it was an opportunity to divert attention towards the plight of the Druzes in Lebanon and away from massacres on the domestic front, at a time when Turkey was being investigated by the League of Nations for deporting Christian minorities to the Iranian border…

-For the ICRC, national societies in war-torn countries are often problematic because they lack neutrality and create obstructions. This was the case in Greece d uring the uprising of the communist People’s Liberation Army ELAS (Ellinikós Laikós Apelevtherotikós Stratós) against the royalist government in Athens. The president of the Greek Red Cross, Athanase Philon, wanted to be the sole leader of relief operations and used his influence to suspend the ICRC’s exemption from customs duties on imported supplies for seven months from July 1947 until being replaced by Constantin Georgacopulos in February 1948. A month later, the ICRC delegate, Emile Wenger, was expelled at the request of the Greek Red Cross because he had attempted to independently distribute clothes in Thessaloniki prisons with the support of the Minister of Justice. On some occasions, Geneva’s neutrality is also threatened by personal initiatives. Thus the president of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, put the ICRC in a difficult position when he was sent to Jerusalem by the United Nations to negotiate a deal between Jews and Palestinians in June 1948. His political agenda, which supported the creation of Israel, caused some confusion and infringed on Geneva’s neutrality. By using both the Red Cross emblem and a military escort, for instance, he broke with tradition since delegates of the Committee nearly always avoided being armed in order to gain the trust of warring parties.

-Similar cases arose during decolonisation. In April 1950, for example, a short-lived Republic of South Moluccas was created by rebels on Ambon Island in Indonesia. Under pressure from the public and the Ambon community in the Netherlands, the Dutch Red Cross publicly stated it would provide relief to the secessionists, as ICRC operations were restricted to government zones. The Committee asked for the organisation to keep a low profile until it informed Indonesian authorities of its intentions. However, the Dutch Red Cross put pressure on the ICRC to provide assistance to the rebels. The press got wind of the plans and stirred matters up even further. The former Dutch colonisers were accused of wanting to retain control over some islands by supporting the rebels and favouring the country’s disintegration. The consequence, explains Catherine Rey-Schirr, was that the nationalist Indonesian government forbade the ICRC from accessing South Molucca in July 1952. Of course, the Dutch Red Cross was not the only society to interfere with Geneva’s humanitarian activities during decolonisation. This trend is also visible in organisations operating in countries losing their colonies. The French Red Cross, for instance, blocked the ICRC’s access to Tunisia when conflict broke out in Sfax in March 1952. The organisation’s president , Doctor Georges Brouardel, argued that the uprising was an “internal” affair and not an inter-state war. He denounced Geneva’s interference and threatened to make a formal complaint to the LRC on the grounds that his society was perfectly capable of assisting political prisoners. Nor was the matter solved after a visit by David Rousset’s International Commission Against Concentration Camps. It was only after t he ICRC delegate to Paris, William Michel, bypassed the French Red Cross that the situation was freed up, thanks to his personal connections with the head of French government Pierre Mendès France, his brother-in-law. In February 1955, the Geneva Committee finally obtained the right to visit political prisoners in Algeria and Morocco… but not Tunisia, where tensions had already died down .

-Other recent examples confirm that national societies can be obstacles to ICRC activities. Cases in point include the Iranian Red Crescent during the war with Iraq and the Ethiopian Red Cross during the famine in the 1980s. On some occasions, national societies sympathize with one of the parties to the conflict, usually governments, making dialogue with rebel groups difficult. In northwest Guatemala, explains for instance David Stoll, the peasant militia prevented ICRC doctors from vaccinating locals in 1992 because they feared that the Committee would use this opportunity to collect intelligence and inform the government via the local Red Cross organisation. On other occasions, national societies refuse to let the Committee enter their country. Thus in Cuba after 1962, ICRC could not rely on the CRC (Cruz Roja Cubana), which was institutionalized by a decree in 1981 and which became part of the regime under the leadership of Doctor Esmildo Gutiérrez Sánchez and the chairmanship of Health Ministers like José Gutiérrez Muñiz in the 1970s and Julio Teja in the 1980s. In thirty years, the Geneva Committee could visit political prisoners on the island only twice, in 1988 and 1989.

-Practically speaking, national societies are not necessary for the ICRC to run relief operations. In Nepal, for example, the Red Cross organisation was not recognised until 1964. However, the Committee had been active in the region since 1959, when it resettled 30,000 Tibetans in exile, following a pilot project for 750 refugees in the Dhor Patan region. In North Yemen , the ICRC started to work in 1962, preceding any Red Crescent in the country. Likewise, the Committee is willing to provide relief to regions that secede or become independent without any official Red Cross or Red Crescent organisation. This was the case in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and West Timor in 1999. In other words, the ICRC should be able to break with a national society without compromising its ability to run operations in a given country. However, it has never fully assumed this position. It is reluctant to expel organisations that it has recognised, even when they fail to respect humanitarian codes of conduct.

-Consequently, there is no real way of banning a national society, except in cases of self-dissolution or withdrawal from the IFRC. Theoretically, the right to suspend members has existed since 1932. It applies to organisations who lack integrity, transgress their own statutes, violate international humanitarian law or are subject to “excessive” government interference. At the 19th Conference of its Governors held in Oxford in June 1946, the LRC also passed a rule allowing it to ban national societies by a two-thirds majority vote (today, 60%) at the General Assembly. But neither the Geneva Committee nor the Federation has ever expelled a member organisation. Similarly, no national society has ever withdrawn from the movement. Despite the numerous problems they raise, the Geneva Committee can not control the members of the Federation. When amending their statutes, for example, nothing compels members to submit their charters to the ICRC and IFRC for vetting in line with resolutions adopted in 1973 and 1981. The Committee’s recommendations have little sway when it comes t o preventing government interference or the transgression of humanitarian principles . At best, national societies are accountable to their Federation, in line with Resolution 3 adopted by its delegate council in 2001. Otherwise, joining the movement is a purely formal and administrative process. Usually, it depends on whether the country in which the organisation is based has ratified the Geneva Conventions. For the organisation to be admitted, no real checks are carried out, due to a lack of regulations on quality and operational capabilities. As Christophe Lanord states, there is no-one to evaluate the activities of a Red Cross or Red Crescent organisation, nor are there sufficiently well-defined standards to apply. Once a national society has gained entry to the Federation, it is perfectly capable of flouting the movement’s statutes , adopted in October 1986. This is particularly true with respect to Article Four, which sets down the conditions for recruiting volunteers and staff without discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion or political opinion. Unfortunately, the movement refused to implement the regular peer-review system advocated by Donald Tansley in 1975 to “name and shame” wrongdoers and launch enquiries carried out by external investigators.

-Instead, to preserve its universal aspirations and to keep all its intervention options open, the ICRC chose to continue supporting substandard societies. Since its early days, the institution has decided not to remove inactive organisations from its list, especially in developing countries where the first Red Crosses had little local support, and were mostly funded by expatriates or citizens of European origin like Pedro Roberts in Argentina in the 1890s. In Africa at Independence, it then recognised national societies which existed only on paper, like in Congo in 1963. Thus it had to establish in Salisbury in 1963 a regional delegation which moved to Dakar in 1965 and which followed the pattern of similar offices in Beyrouth or Phnom Penh: its aim was not to respond to humanitarian emergencies but to reinforce the capacities of new organisations. The problem did not disappear as the movement gathered momentum. In 1975, Donald Tansley studied 23 national organisations. He concluded that many were “incapable of carrying out their statutory duties or assuming their local and international responsibilities.” Four failed to fulfil even the basic criteria necessary for an organisation to be recognised by the movement. Another three raised serious doubts because they only covered part of the country in which they operated and were obviously unable to carry out their duties in the case of war. “If admission criteria based on the Principles set out in Oxford in 1946 had been applied,” wrote Donald Tansley, “ten of the 23 organisations studied would have failed to gain entry to the movement.” He considered that his sample was “reasonably representative” and extended his conclusions to the entire movement. In his words, “there [was] no valid reason to believe national organisations not examined during the study would fare any better were they subjected to the same admission criteria today.” History would prove him right. At a meeting of ICRC and IFRC representatives in Budapest in November 1991, the Federation’s Secretary General, Pär Stenbäck, admitted that around 50 national societies were moribund and needed “artificial respiration” according to Daphne Reid and Patrick Gilbo. In Africa and the Caribbean, for example, many organisations only existed on paper. Nor was the situation much better in Asia, where societies were often limited to activities in and around the main towns, to the detriment of rural areas. Similarly, according to a survey of 400 people from the upper and middle class suburbs of Manila in February and March 2001 carried out by TNS (Taylor Nelson-Sofres) , only 4% of respondents were aware of the existence of a Red Cross despite the fact that most NGOs in the Philippines have their offices in the capital city.

-Even when national societies act against humanitarian values, and not just their own statutes, the Geneva Committee has chosen not to ban them from the movement. Only on rare occasions has the ICRC put pressure on some countries, always “weak” states. Consequently, the Committee threatened to take action against the Haitian Red Cross in the 1950s for political discrimination, but not against the German Red Cross, which was purged of Jews and brought under Nazi control in the 1930s. It also announced the dissolution of the Ethiopian Red Cross without preliminary warning in a circular endorsing the Italian colonisation of Abyssinia on 25 June 1936. Later on, in January 1941, it backtracked and argued “continuity” to avoid beginning the formal ratification procedure all over again when the society was reconstituted in Addis-Ababa with the support of British troops and the Negus from October 1947. In the 1970s, it did take steps against the South African Red Cross for its racial discrimination under apartheid, but only because of intense international pressure. The organisation was threatened with expulsion on several occasions, yet the ICRC always tried to block the process, so that its activities in the country would not be compromised. At each international Red Cross conference, it managed to neutralize resolutions targeting South Africa, leaving them without substance. In Istanbul in 1969, in Tehran in 1973, in Bucharest in 1977 and in Geneva in 1986, it succeeded in turning these motions into vague statements condemning “all forms of racism and discrimination” in national societies. Following the 25th international Red Cross conference where the ICRC abstained from voting on a resolution expelling the South African Red Cross, the Committee chose to focus its efforts on reforming the organisation itself. In 1989, it lobbied for the recruitment of “local leaders” to work with coloured communities and supported Black employees who had been fired after going on strike to demand more representative leadership. Eventually the apartheid system was dismantled, and the ICRC took part in drafting a new, multi-racial constitution for the South African Red Cross: the document was adopted on 28 September 1992. Likewise in Haiti, the Geneva Committee avoided expelling the national society. Instead, it attempted to assist in its restructuring with the support  of Doctor Victor Laroche, its president in 1968, and the government of dictator François Duvalier, who donated a building for the organisation’s headquarters. On very rare occasions, the ICRC has directly intervened in the running of a national society. In 2002, for example, the Liberian Red Cross was suffering an internal management crisis. The IFRC withdrew its support, concluding it was incapable of resolving the situation. At that point, the ICRC took on the budget of the organisation for one year, so that it would not collapse before its return to the Federation in 2003.

-To conclude , the ICRC should be responsible for national societies, like multinational companies are responsible for their subsidiaries in developing countries when they fail to respect labour codes. There are at least four reasons why this should be so. Firstly, the ICRC recognizes these societies. To avoid being mistakenly implicated in their misdeeds, it should therefore be able to sanction defaulting organisations by withdrawing its certification. Secondly, the Committee monitors humanitarian values embodied in the Red Cross Movement. Consequently, it is responsible for promoting their implementation . Thirdly, the ICRC’s social and legal liability results from its organisational and statutory relations with national societies, in particular at international conferences. And fourthly, the Committee’s operations rely heavily on the various Red Crosses and Red Crescents that provide staff, logistical support and funds (the ICRC also sponsors them, as we shall see in the next section). In other words, the institution bears a kind of corporate social responsibility regarding national societies. Hence it should be able to withdraw its Red Cross label from organisations that break the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian codes of conduct. Of all the problems faced by the Committee, this is probably the most serious and the biggest threat to the movement’s future.

5) Financial resources
-The financial figures mentioned in our database are taken from the ICRC’s annual reports. They have been adjusted in line with changes in the institution’s accounting methods over the years.

-Until recently, the ICRC’s budget was incomprehensible to mere mortals. It was a mass of randomly interconnected accounts that were not untangled until 2000, when the organisation finally adopted international accounting standards. The ICRC used to distinguish between overheads and operations expenses in the field. Its “general”, “permanent” or “ordinary” budget covered regular peacetime activities, and was financed by return on investments, government subsidies and contributions from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. For emergencies, the “special” or “occasional” budget was funded by specific appeals. It was called “relief fund” in the 1960s and “war activities account” in 1870, 1914 and 1939. Big international operations we re often given their own separate balance sheet, as was the case in Biafra in 1968-1969 and Jordan in 1970. Last but not least, b etween 1971 and 1978, there was a “temporary” or “additional” budget, used to pay the salaries of casual or temporary staff. According to Jean-François Golay, the function of this budget was primarily to hide the Swiss government’s discreet increase in funding, as Berne did not wish to give other governments the impression their contributions were unwelcome. Finally, t he ICRC also benefited from private foundations, whose accounts we re presented separately.

-Historically, the ICRC’s budget has expanded in line with its activities, especially during the two world wars, when the Committee received many government subsidies to assist prisoners of war. Its income reached over 1 million Swiss Francs in 1918 after stagnating around 100,000 Swiss Francs in the 1870s. Despite integrating the accounts of the International Prisoners-of-War Agency, which ran at a surplus , funding returned to pre-war levels in the 1920s. States began to repatriat e their own soldiers captured during combat and the ICRC’s operating budget dropped accordingly. According to Jacques Meurant, it fell from 675,000 Swiss Francs during World War One, to 500,000 in 1919, 400,000 in 1920 and 200,000 in 1924. It remained at around 100,000 Swiss Francs until 1939. World War Two brought another increase: in 1945, the budget exceeded 17 million Swiss Francs. In the following decade , however, the organisation’s sources of funding dried up and the Committee experienced a period of financial turmoil. This was partly due to unpopular relief operations in post-war Germany, which led to cuts in subsidies from the American, British and Canadian governments. It was also due to a decrease in contributions by Red Cross societies, which could no longer use war patriotism to collect donations at very little cost . The new political context definitely handicapped the ICRC, as the Cold War caused humanitarian operations to be blocked and sponsors to reduce their funding. Despite cutting costs and firing most of its staff at the end of 1945, the Committee was unable to prevent chronic operating deficits. Its budget fell from 9 million Swiss Francs in 1947 to 4 million in 1953. T he situation remained uncertain until the 1970s. At this point, while the Committee’s activities still ran at a deficit, the shortfall was now caused by an unprecedented expansion in activities and subsequent increases in expenses . The LRC experienced a similar situation, with deficits between 1965 and 1967 despite an increasing income from 680,000 Swiss Francs in 1947 to 11.5 million Swiss Francs in 1961. This was particularly visible during the Biafra crisis in 1969, when the ICRC’s budget exceeded a hundred million Swiss Francs for the first time. The Committee’s operations manager , Jean-Pierre Hocke, was partly responsible for this state of affairs : after being named High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations in January 1986, h e caused the UNHCR’s deficit to become so out of control that the General Assembly had to step in to take control. He was pushed to resign in October 1989. Meanwhile, the ICRC was still plagued by operating deficits. Far from hiding the problem , the Geneva Committee institutionalised it for psychological reasons. “For the ICRC,” explains Jean-François Golay, “a budget deficit justified increasingly frequent calls for funding, while showing it was impossible to cut costs any further.” Indeed, budgetary imbalances did not prevent the organisation’s financial growth, which peaked during the humanitarian crises in Cambodia in 1979 and Ethiopia in 1984. Between 1976 and 1986, the ICRC’s “ordinary” and “special” budgets quadrupled in real terms. In nominal terms, this meant a jump from 48 to 256 million Swiss Francs, and these figures did not include the Committee’s return on investments. Today, the ICRC’s total, integrated budget is around 1 billion Swiss Francs.

-The ICRC’s funding comes from three major sources which will be examined in greater detail below: governments; national societies; and private foundations . D onations by companies or individuals have little overall effect on the organisation’s budget. Unlike national societies, the ICRC does not organise beauty contests, lotteries or charity galas to finance its various activities.

-Today, the Geneva Committee is extremely dependent on government subsidies . This has not always been the case. Initially, the ICRC was far more dependent on volunteers and individual donations. Members were frequent donors. From 1869, subscriptions to the ‘International Bulletin of aid societies to wounded soldiers’ (Bulletin international des Sociétés de secours aux militaires blessés) were the organisation’s first regular source of income. The Committee also had the support of several royal patrons , including Augusta of Saxe-Weimar (Germany) in 1890, Maria Feodorova (Russia) in 1902, and Shoken Kotaigo (Japan) in 1912. On 15 November 1915 the organisation gained civil status under Swiss law, meaning it could legally receive bequests. It therefore sought to increase its visibility and began requesting donations from the wider public. According to Jean-Pierre Gaume, it was initially reluctant to accept Swiss governmental subsidies, the first being granted in 1920 for child victims of World War One . Following the economic crisis of 1929, however, Berne became a regular contributor. On several occasions it even saved the ICRC from bankruptcy, in particular in 1946. In the 1950s , it also acted as a guarantor for loans contracted by the Committee, allowing the organisation to fund its chronic deficits. In the 1960s and 1970s, Berne took over 50 to 75% of operating costs incurred at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. The regular nature of these contributions, added to donations by other states, meant that this temporary situation inevitably became a permanent one, with lasting effects on the institution’s sources of funding. Between 1950 and 1970, subsidies began to supplant donations by national societies. While governments contributed 50% of the Committee’s “ordinary” budget in the 1960s, this figure increased to 80% by the 1980s. Private donations, 89% of the organisation’s total income in 1950, dropped to 20% in 2005 according to calculations by Aid Watch . The real figure may be even lower given that deficits and surpluses carried over from government subsidies in previous years were classed as “private” . The contributions of Red Crosses and Red Crescents were also counted as “private” despite the fact that most of their funding came from public sources. Indeed, most national societies receive considerable financial backing from their governments, not to mention tax and logistical advantages that help reduce the cost of collecting private donations. E xamples include France and Belgium, where they benefit from the sale of postal charity stamps ; Canada, Columbia and South Africa, where they are given preferential access to national lottery funds; and the Philippines, where the Red Cross is exempted from customs duties by means of Presidential Decree 1643 passed on 1 October 1979.

-As the ICRC’s financial sources have become less diverse, the increased dependency on government funding has caused several problems. Firstly, public grants are not compulsory. As a result, the ICRC has to continuously appeal for funds, with limited success if a government has little or no interest in a particular humanitarian crisis. Secondly, the unreliability of subsidies contradicts the Committee’s principle of “universality” . During the Cold War, for example, 90% of its public funding came from the West: the Soviet bloc was conspicuous by its absence. In the 1980s, only half of the signatories to the Geneva Convention contributed to the ICRC’s budget. The Soviet Union only made its first payment in 1988. Thirdly, the Committee received funding from countries that violated the Geneva C onventions: imperialist Japan and Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, the South African a partheid r egime in the 1960s, and terrorist Libya under Muammar el-Kadhafi through the Omar el-Muktar Foundation in the 1980s. Fourthly, government subsidies are often conditional on financial, institutional or geographical constraints that limit the Committee’s sphere of action .   Thus, the increases in Swiss public funding between 1972 and 1978 went hand in hand with tighter federal control of the ICRC’s temporary budget expenditure. Similarly, the Committee has occasionally acted as a “ proxy” in furthering certain countries’ international priorities. This arises when funds are “earmarked” for a particular project or programme. As a result of the Western “war against terror” , for instance, many subsidies were directed at Afghanistan , where the ICRC was conducting its biggest relief operation in 2002 and where  the strategic objective was also to incite the Muslim population to rally with the Americans against the Taliban.

-Because government contributions are voluntary and not necessarily renewed from one year to the next, the Committee runs considerable risk in opposing state pressure. In 2001, its president, Jakob Kellenberger, was seen as being a little too conciliatory after a Jewish congressman from New York, Elliot Engel, criticised his views on Israel and threatened to put pressure on the White House to decrease its backing and adjust the Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 under which the American government paid a compulsory annual subsidy to the ICRC. As a matter of fact, t he Fitzgerald-Clinton-Dole amendment, which was pushed through by Jewish lobbyists and passed in 2000, made it possible for Washington to reduce its funding by 25% if the organisation did not recognise the Maguen David Adom as a full member of the Red Cross movement. The amendment was never actually applied but showed how the Committee avoided crossing paths with the authorities. Thus, a ccording to Monica Kathina Juma, a Kenyan researcher, it is governments who call the shots . Consequently, ICRC operations now depend on available funds , rather than demand for relief. The new approach dates from the 1970s and differs to the 1920s, when the Committee’s budget fluctuated in line with appeals following disasters. This evolution has helped the ICRC to stabilise its financial resources and reduce its deficits. Rather than indicating an increase in humanitarian crises, it points to an institutionalisation of the organisation’s budget and a greater reliance on government funding . 

-According to the Committee, however, voluntary public funding gives the ICRC more independence than intergovernmental agencies that receive regular grants via a quota system. The institution claims it has managed to retain sufficient leeway to preserve its neutrality. For instance, the fact that the United States is an important contributor did not prevent the ICRC from denouncing Guantanamo or condemning Washington’s refusal to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Moreover, the Committee was able to refuse grants that would have jeopardized its neutrality and favoured some victims over others, as in Kuwait in 1991 . For Geneva, maintaining diverse sources of funding was important to limit the risks of state interference. In the 1960s, it refused offers by the Political Department of the Swiss Confederation to finance all of its ordinary budget, leaving international operations to be paid for by other public bodies or individuals. Instead, t he Committee tried to encourage local governments to donate funds, but with little success: Swiss cantons and communes only contributed 1% of the organisation’s 1988 budget of 322 million Swiss Francs, while states accounted for 79%. In the 1990s, the ICRC then began looking to oil-producing countries in the Gulf for financial assistance, as their contributions had been all but non-existent before the petrol shocks in 1973, and had declined after 1984. In the same vein, it began approaching international agencies like the Council of Europe, the Organisation of African Unity, the Organisation of American States and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. The European Union, the largest backer of IFRC emergency operations since the 1980s, also became increasingly important to the ICRC and funded around 25% of its “special” budget, on a par with the United States. Over the years, the identity of the main donors has changed somewhat. Switzerland’s contributions have dropped to around 10% of total financial resources. Great Britain has become the second largest contributor after the United States, even though American donations increased considerably after the Foreign Assistance Act passed in 1973. The Committee subsequently decided to restrict contributions by one sole donor to 25% of the total amount of grants collected. Still , its four main funders, the European Union, the United States, Great Britain, and Switzerland, have accounted for half of the organisation’s budget since 2000.

-Consequently, the ICRC has always been on the lookout for alternative sources of funding. In particular, it has focused on the possibilities offered by the private sector. In 1970, the Committee hired a fundraising specialist. In 1982, it set up a Swiss support organisation to collect donations from the public based on the model of the “Friends of the League of the Red Cross”, which has existed since 1952 . However, the ICRC’s efforts did not bring the expected results. Over the last 30 years, private donations and legacies have never accounted for more than 3% of the institution ’s consolidated budget. In Switzerland, this is partly because of an agreement between the ICRC and the local Red Cross limiting the former’s ability to collect individual donations from Swiss residents. In Geneva, the ICRC also has to compete with the IFRC . As a result, it receives little funding from the general public. The situation is paradoxical . In a survey carried out by Peter Warren and Iain Walker amongst 2,648 ICRC and Save the Children supporters in the United Kingdom, respondents indicated that, for them, aid efficiency was more important than empathy for the victims. So it is surprising that individual donations are not more important for the Geneva Committee, a professional organisation with a good reputation. Nor are sponsors a significant source of revenues. Traditionally, business contributions to the ICRC budget have stagnated around 0.2%, although the Committee’s current aim is to increase this figure to 3% by 2010 or 2015.

-Today, most of the ICRC’s “private” funding comes from return on investments and contributions from Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. In order to become more financially independent, the Committee has set up various foundations , no less than 12, which have helped the organisation to get through difficult periods. They include legacies of the empresses Augusta of Saxe-Weimar in Germany in 1890 and Maria Feodorova in Russia in 1902 to assist the war wounded. Operational in 1921, a nother foundation was set up in 1912 by the Japanese Empress Shoken Kotaigo to fight against tuberculosis, promote public health and support relief operations for victims of natural disasters in peacetime. As for the Florence Nightingale Fund, it came into legal existence on 24 December 1913 and its statutes have been revised several times, most recently on 31 January 1992 . Named after the famous British nurse who served during the Crimean War, this foundation rewards the most worthy volunteers with medals and gives support to the families of humanitarian workers killed in the field . After the First World War, the Committee also took advantage of a Swiss government subsidy to establish a “Foundation for the ICRC” on 5 May 1931. During the Second World War, again, the institution created a Red Cross Foundation for Transport in order to charter cargo and hospital ships: i t came into legal existence on 15 April 1942, and was recorded at the Bale Chamber of Commerce five days later. Since then , other f und s have been set up under Swiss law. The Clare Benedict F und was launched in 1967 by a rich American heiress to provide aid to the victims of armed conflict. The Maurice de Madre Fund was set up in 1970 by a French Count to assist ICRC or Red Cross staff wounded while carrying out their duties. Backed by Tripoli, t he Omar el Muktar foundation was established in 1980 under the name of a Libyan hero who fought against Italian colonisation. In 1983, both the Special Fund for the Disabled and t he Paul Reuter Fund were set up, the latter by a professor at the University of Paris to promote international humanitarian law. The most recent foundation, Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft (Remembrance, Responsibility and Future) was created in Germany in August 2000 to back the ICRC’s ITS (International Tracking Service).

-In addition to the return on its investments, the Geneva Committee also receives funding from Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations , which amounted to around 10% of its expenditure on relief operations in the 1990s . Nevertheless, the contributions of national societies have never lived up to expectations and have dropped significantly since the 1930s, when they accounted for around 50% of the institution’s income. Given their lack of decision-making power at the ICRC, their funding is not compulsory, unlike the IFRC. After the Second World War, the Committee had hoped that national societies would pay the equivalent of half of their contributions to the LRC and would make up around a third of its budget. A donation scheme had even been worked out based on the pro-rata system used by the United Nations for each country , excluding Switzerland, which was not part of the UN and whose Red Cross’s fundraising was twice penalised by the presence of both the ICRC and the LRC in Geneva. All these plans failed. Between 1975 and 1988, national societies’ average contributions only amounted to 6% of the Committee’s ordinary budget. In addition, most donations were from the same members, namely, in decreasing order, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Finland, the United States, Germany, Canada, Japan, Denmark and Holland. The statistics are revealing: contributions by national societies fell from 12% of the ICRC’s consolidated budget in 1988, to 10% in 1998 and 6% in 2007.

-In this regard, t he IFRC’s sources of funding are very different . The Committee depends mainly on governments , while the Federation relies more on national societies. Before the Second World War, half of the LRC’s funds came from the American Red Cross. Subsequently, the League sought to reduce its dependency on the United States. In 1948, it introduced a quota scheme, modified in 1952 and 1968, which stipulated that one member could not contribute more than 30% of the institution’s budget. It also set down conditions for funding based on the income of a national society, its staff numbers and the resources of its country , in line with the gross domestic product per capita. After the last two criteria were abolished in 1976, the Federation adopted the proportional system in place at the United Nations. In cases of repeated late payments, sanctions were gradually increased and culminated in a member’s loss of voting rights. As the number of national societies increased, so did the IFRC’s “ordinary” budget : from 1 million Swiss Francs in 1945 to 4 million in 1970, and 20 million in 1980. The “special” budget grew at even faster rates. It increased tenfold between 1978 and 1980, from 2.3 million to 22.6 million Swiss Francs , and again between the Cambodian crisis in 1979 and the Ethiopian famine in 1985, from 15.9 million to 141.4 million Swiss Francs . Currently, the IFRC’s total incoming resources amount to around half a billion Swiss Francs in the 2000s.

-Despite these impressive increases, the Federation’s budget is now inferior to the Committee’s, which  expl oded thanks to government contributions. By way of comparison, the IFRC’s “ordinary” budget was five times larger than the ICRC’s in the 1950s. Today, the Committee’s incoming resources are twice as large as those of the Federation. This is not only because of a n increase in g overnment contributions , but a lso because of the ICRC’s global expansion. In 1974, the Committee’s total resources were less than the American Red Cross’ national emergency relief fund. From 1980 onwards, however, the ICRC’s “ordinary” budget, which still absorbed 75% of total receipts in 1970, began to become less and less important as international activities increased. The “special” budget was progressively used to finance overheads, some 10% of recurring expenses in the 1980s . Today, the administration in Geneva absorbs around one fifth of the organisation’s total budget: 20% in 1990, 16% in 1991, 17% in 1992 and 1993, 18% in 1994, 20% in 1995, 22% in 1996, 21% in 1997, 23% in 1998, 17% in 1999, 16% in 2000, 17% in 2001, 18% in 2002, 16% in 2003, 19% in 2004, 15% in 2005, 16% in 2006 and 15% in 2007.

-To some extent, the ICRC’s history can be read in the difference between overheads and operating expenses. For a long time, the organisation’s functions were mainly administrative and focused on spreading humanitarian law throughout the world. As a result, much of the budget was spent on salaries, if we are to believe annual reports, which published no statistics on this matter between 1963 and 1998 . After the Second World War, salaries were around 75% of total expenditure (70% in 1952, 76% in 1953, 75% in 1954 and 77% in 1955) and up to 80% of the organisation’s “ordinary” budget (79% in 1956, 70% in 1957, 80% in 1958, 81% in 1959, 76% in 1960, 72% in 1961 and 79% in 1962). Since then , salaries have varied between one third and one half of the Committee’s overall expenses (33% in 1999, 37% in 2000, 39% in 2001, 42% in 2002, 43% in 2003, 49% in 2004, 48% in 2005 and 2006 and 46% in 2007). These changes are partly due to requirements by backers to reduce costs and publish data on overheads (from 1990 on) and implementation rates (from 2000 on). This last indicator measures what proportion of the budget is actually spent in the field: 87% in 2000, 78% in 2001, 73% in 2002, 80% in 2003, 90% in 2004, 91% in 2005, 86% in 2006 and 91% in 2007.

-Generally speaking, the ICRC has strict management principles. Occasionally, it inflated some expenses. According to an audit released in 1970 and quoted by Morris Davis, for instance, the London firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co noticed that, during the Biafra War, the Committee under-evaluated the value of food items and did not include the contribution of Red Cross volunteers, so as to reduce its costs, or hide them in the budget of other organisations. As it hoped to resume its flights, it maintained a whole fleet of planes and had to pay an average of $840 per ton delivered to the Biafran enclave, compared to $362 for the Protestant Churches and $115 as the normal price in peacetime! To the best of our knowledge, however, the ICRC’s executive has never been involved in misappropriating funds on a large scale, unlike national societies. As for individuals employed by the Committee, there have only been two recorded examples of misconduct : one in Turkey during World War Two and the other in South Africa during apartheid. The first  example was Giuseppe Beretta , who joined the ICRC in 1942, and was investigated by the Swiss police in 1945 for forgery and the trafficking of currencies belonging to Turkish Jews held at Treblinka . This delegate was involved in transporting Nazi gold after diplomatic relations between Berlin and Istanbul stalled and the Swiss Confederation was appointed to represent German interests in Turkey. According to an article published in Lausanne’s Nouveau Quotidien on 20 August 1996, Giuseppe Beretta attempted to smuggle more than 10,000 gold coins into Switzerland by way of the diplomatic bag, and not 710 as originally claimed by the ICRC. Once events came to light, he was summoned to Geneva and fired.

-Most other cases regarding the misappropriation of funds a re linked to the Committee’s partners abroad, especially Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in both developing and developed countries. Otherwise, management problems within the ICRC a re limited to ethical conflicts of interest . As we have already seen, one of the institution’s main objectives is to spread humanitarian norms throughout the world. To do so, the Committee has accepted funds from countries that do not respect the Geneva Conventions, like Nazi Germany and militarist Japan up until the end of World War Two. The organisation even demanded its share of the gold sold by the Reichsbank to the Swiss Central Bank to assist German nationals returning home after the defeat of the Wehrmacht in 1945 . In 1950, t he Federal Republic of Germany finally paid arrears for services rendered by the ICRC in delivering supplies to prisoners-of-war . Consequently, the Committee has sometimes been suspected of overlooking violations of humanitarian law when this would compromise its sources of funding. The importance of revenues from the Empress Shoken Fund, for example, may have explained why the ICRC failed to denounce Japanese exactions in China at the 16th International Red Cross Conference in London in 1938. However, the apartheid regime contributed very little to the institution’s income, yet the Committee refused to expel the South African Red Cross from the movement.

-In addition to receiving state subsidies, the ICRC accepted funding from private groups or organisations with vested interests in armed conflicts. After the Nazis were defeated in 1945, for example, it began to discreetly collect donations from the German diaspora to assist friends and relatives held by the Allies as prisoners-of-war. Prior to the creation of Israel in 1948 , the ICRC also accepted donations from associations like the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation and Assirenu (“For our Prisoners”), a charity organisation of the Jewish community in Palestine (Va’ad Le’umi). During the civil war in North Yemen in 1964-1965, again, an ICRC delegate, André Rochat, raised five millions of Swiss Francs in the Gulf amongst Arab monarchs who supported the royalist resistance against the Republicans in power in Sana’a.

-Conflicts of interest involving companies are studied in section nine, which deals with the ICRC’s relations with economic forces. Meanwhile, it is possible to state that Geneva’s ethical concerns are not always shared by members of the Red Cross movement. Funding by gambling, for instance, is condemned by r eligious humanitarian NGOs because games encourage personal gain, put strain on household budgets and allow mafias to recycle their profits. In this perspective, t he ICRC rejected a proposal by the French Red Cross to organise lotteries to finance its activities. But the Committee does not control national societies, and has not been able to prevent them from using gambling as a source of revenues. Today, the Canadian, Belgian, South African, Nicaraguan, Columbian and Philippine Red Crosses share profits from the national lottery; t heir Brazilian and Norwegian counterparts receive money from sporting bets and slot machines respectively. T he Philippines National Red Cross is also allocated part of the revenues  of PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation), a semi-public company that backs electoral campaigns, contributes to the secret funds of the political parties in power and organises charity galas in favour of candidates wishing to improve their image . As for t he ICRC, it accepts anonymous donations and sponsorship by Swiss banking institutions. Given that third world dictators often choose to launder their money in Switzerland , this is another problematic source of revenue. Potentially, the Committee could be involved in recycling embezzled public funds in countries where little or nothing is invested in health or education. One such source is the Union of Swiss Banks, an institution whose subsidiaries Metalor and Argus-Heraeus were accused of supporting the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s and illegally importing gold from Congo-Kinshasa in the 1990s. Likewise, the ICRC receives subsidies from Liechtenstein, another offshore platform with a strong reputation for money laundering . To justify its position, the Committee shifts the burden of responsibility onto its backers. According to its former president Cornelio Sommuraga, quoted in Massimo Lorenzi’s book : “we don’t want to know where the money comes from but […] we do want [bankers] to ensure the funds we receive are ‘clean’.” National societies are no more scrupulous . The British Red Cross, for example, accepted contributions from Jersey Overseas Aid, a cooperation agency set up on an island known for laundering dirty money from third world dictator s like General Sani Abacha in Nigeria between 1993 and 1998.

-While the sources of the ICRC’s income may be questionable, the use of funds for humanitarian projects is indisputable. National societies, on the other hand, have occasionally diverted money. As early as 1975, Donald Tansley recommended that steps be taken to improve their integrity. Indeed, unlike the Committee, national societies have been directly involved in misappropriating funds, in both developed and developing countries. The cases of France and the United States are particularly edifying and provide a good, historical overview of common problems.

-For the CRF (Croix-Rouge française), problems started during the Franco-Prussian war . The Société de secours aux blessés militaires des armées de terre et de mer , as the organisation was originally known, was accused of being “wasteful” and “stingy”, with an income of 13.6 million F rancs in 1871 compared to a few hundred in 1869. One commentator, Léon Le Fort, deplored the organisation’s lack of accountability at a time when the British Red Cross published complete financial statements for a budget that reached 7.5 million Francs in 1871. At the end of the war, the CRF was running a surplus of 3.5 million Francs, while its Belgian counterpart had spent its entire 1871 budget of 0.3 million Francs. In Léon Le Fort’s opinion, it would have been better to use this money to compensate the many volunteers who, in the field, had had to pay expenses out of their own pocket . Fundraising was also controversial. It first relied on contributions by other national societies, including the Mexican and Japanese Red Crosses. It then went on to collect donations from the public after the French army’s first defeats in August 1870. Campaigns were support ed by a P ress C ommittee which was set up in July 1870 by Le Gaulois newspaper. The following month, however, the organisation was accused of inefficiency and asked to give the money back: its a ristocratic bureaucracy had caused professional doctors to lose out. Paradoxically, explains Bertrand Taithe, the Press Committee encouraged the organisation to buy more ambulances so as to receive more donations . Consequently , quantity replaced quality . According to Grégoire Wyrouboff, the mortality rate of French casualties during the war was twice as high as for the German military. Medical errors were also made . During the battle of Sedan in September 1870, for instance, Charles Ryan reports how he worked in an Anglo-American ambulance where there was no “serious attempt to render the instruments, operating table, and surroundings of the patient, aseptic. Hence the high rate of mortality which ensued. Startling, in fact, as the statement may appear, I am convinced that if we had refrained from from performing a single secondary operation at Sedan, our results would have turned out far better”.

-As far as management is concerned, Leon Lefort’s comments of 1871 were still valid a hundred years later. Once again, the CRF was in the spotlight because of its overheads. As shown by an investigation carried out by the French Ministry of Finance and the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs , administrative costs were still excessive. The organisation employ ed too many staff for a deficit of some 20 million Euro in 1989 . According to articles published by Le Monde newspaper on 28 April and 6 July 1989, only one third of donations received was actually spent on social activities . In addition, the organisation was plagued by fraud. In 1991, the directors of DBS, a marketing company, pocketed almost all of the money collected for the French Red Cross. Twelve years later, a surprise visit by the Health and Social Services revealed several problems in the running of a CRF emergency centre at Le Bourget in the Paris suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis. According to Libération newspaper on 19 December 2003, the local Red Cross chapter occasionally refused to shelter homeless people, claiming its beds were already occupied so as to artificially inflate its occupancy statistics and receive more public funding. After a complaint by the head office, the manager of the CRF chapter in Seine-Saint-Denis, Robert Dray, was convicted for breach of trust; the organisation itself was brought before the tribunal by several employees. Finally, in December 2004, the Asian tsunami confirm ed the institution ’s dubious tendency to give preference to fundraising over social missions. While the disaster entail ed long-term reconstruction programmes, the CRF cho se to portray the drama as an “emergency” in order to collect more donations . Unlike its American and Canadian counterparts which stopped fundraising as early as January 2005, it continued collecting donations for several weeks , like the British and Swiss Red Crosses. Yet it knew that the most pressing needs had already been met, and that any additional funding could, at best, be used for development initiatives. Médecins sans Frontières, for example, asked donors to stop giving money. The CRF, on the other hand, decided to keep on collecting for emergency relief thanks to its connections with the media, especially through Etienne Mougeotte, a member of its board and the director of the popular channel TF1 (Télévision Française 1). It refused to ask donors to fund other less publicised but equally pressing disasters. The result, notes Richard Werly, was that the CRF had more money than it could conceivably spend: a total of 115.8 million Euros , of which only 15% had been used for tsunami victims as at 31 December 2005. Under pressure from the general public, the organisation invested its surplus in local NGOs and deviated from its normal practices of funding its own operations. Partners were selected too quickly, with doubtful results. To build houses at Pudukuppam in Cuddalore District on the Indian Coast of Tamil Nadu State, for instance, it backed the Mata Amritanandamayi Math until September 2005, an organisation run by adepts of Ayurvedic medicine, and led by Sri Mata Amritandanandamayi, a guru known for his healing powers. And in October 2007, the French Red Cross had to fire its local staff in Sri Lanka because they took bribes to allocate the houses built by the organisation. Meanwhile, back in France, the CRF announced its intention to close down health centres in the poorer areas of Seine-Saint-Denis in December 2005. Statistically speaking, this region’s doctors per inhabitant rate is twice as low as the national average. The decision was therefore controversial, and Jean-François Mattéi, the CRF’s president, was criticised for giving preference to “profitable” relief operations in Asia. The Mayor of Drancy, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, attacked the “dishonest tactics” and “lies” of an organisation that failed to consult local representatives or respect employment laws, while claiming it had to close local clinics for lack of municipal funding. Under public pressure, the Red Cross chapter of Seine-Saint-Denis had to provisionally re-open three health centres in Drancy, Blanc-Mesnil and Epinay-sur-Seine.

-The American Red Cross (ARC) is another good example of the problems that can affect a national society. As early as April 1904, its president and founder, Clara Barton, was the object of a parliamentary enquiry for relocating her private house to ARC headquarters, using the organisation to take free holidays abroad, and diverting funds to a commercial farm . Nearly a century later, the institution was caught out again. After the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, its president, Doctor Bernadine Healy, chose to open a special fund for public donations. This deviated from normal procedure, since the organisation usually launche d general appeals for emergencies. As a result, local ARC chapters resented being excluded from the decision-making process, and were unhappy with the preference shown for New York: v ictims of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the Red River floods in 1997 had not been given such favourable treatment. The situation was further complicated by Bernadine Healy’s lack of popularity with her staff. She fired corrupt executives, and paid herself a $400,000 annual salary, twice that of her predecessor. After the attacks on the World Trade Centre , she ended up with excess funds, and nothing on which to spend them. She considered transferring the money to victims of terrorism in general, against the wishes of donors who gave specifically for the survivors in New York. She was finally forced to resign in October 2001, when it became obvious that a considerable proportion of the $540 million donated had been spent on administrative costs and other operations with no clear link to the disaster. However, this was not the end to the institution ’s problems. The following month, the state of New Jersey sued Joseph Lecowich and Catalina Escoto, respectively the manager and accountant of the ARC’s chapter in Hudson County, for misappropriating $1 million. I n the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in August 2005, imposters also collected donations pretending to be members of the Red Cross. As Eric Lipton explains, the ARC provided hotel rooms to flood victims but some were used by mere holidaymakers or billed to the institution even though they remained empty.

-National societies in other developed countries have also been affected by fraud, misappropriation of funds, corruption and tax evasion. According to Liz Gooch, the Australian Red Cross faced similar problems to its American Red equivalent in 2001. In 2003, it was critici sed for misappropriating funds collected on behalf of the victims of the Bali bombing in Indonesia. Even though an audit officially cleared it of the more serious accusation of embezzlement , the Australian Red Cross clearly failed to explain properly to donors what it intended to do with their money . In Europe there have also been various scandals over the last few years. In April 2000, two managers of the Bavarian Red Cross found themselves in prison after getting a kickback of 3 million Deutschemarks from pharmaceutical companies and artificially inflating the purchase prices of products used for blood collection . In February 2006, the head of the Bulgarian Red Cross, Hristo Grivorov, was arrested for misappropriating considerable sums of money, and went on a hunger strike to protest against his questioning. Finally, in Serbia, the Belgrade chapter of the Yugoslavian Red Cross diverted so many supplies that its relief operations were put under temporary IFRC and ICRC management between 2001 and 2003.

-Of course, national societies face similar problems in developing countries where corruption is rife . Indeed, their leaders are usually as corrupt as public officials, as many of them are recruited from the civil service. There are several possibilities. Firstly, international relief is often misappropriated, especially supplies by the ICRC, the IFRC or other national societies. During the Bangladesh Liberation War , for example, the local Red Cross was led by the Awami League independence fighters, who sold considerable amounts of provisions on the black market. A ccording to The Times on 19 August 1974, only one food ration in seven and one blanket in thirteen actually made it to the victims targeted by Western humanitarian organisations. The Malaysian Red Crescent behaved little better than its Bangladeshi counterpart when Vietnamese boat people fled the Communist regime in Hanoi. Led by Tunku Tan Sri Mohamed, the organisation decided to build a hospital for refugees on Poulo Bidong Island. To do so, it was supplied with fibre cement boards by one of it s secretaries who owned the production factory. The secretary overcharged the institution and was sent to prison in 1979. In Mauritania, the local Red Crescent experienced other kinds of problems during the drought that affected the Sahel between 1984 and 1985. Charged with distributing provisions donated by the international community, t he organisation worked with Caritas and the Lutheran World Federation. It relayed government demands for three times more aid than was necessary in order to siphon off part of it. Likewise, the Sri Lankan Red Cross gave in to state pressure in 1995 by blocking funds and putting a halt to humanitarian operations on Jaffna Peninsula during a large-scale offensive against the Tamil Tigers. In Indonesia, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, the local Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia) was also suspected of misappropriating relief intended for victims of the 2004 tsunami. Under the leadership of a former Minister of Finance, Pak Marie Muhammad, the organisation eventually had to undergo extensive reforms.

-Embezzlement is not limited to international relief. Abuses also occur with funds collected locally, as in Latin America. The Brazilian Red Cross CVB (Cruz Vermelha Brasileira ) is one example. Between 1991 and 2000, it was led by a controversial woman , Mavy d’Ache Assumpção, who had links to the military dictatorship in the 1970s and was suspected of taking advantage of the organisation to misappropriate funds, travel first class, stay in luxurious hotels, rent a magnificent apartment, use her official car for personal ends, and pay her family’s holidays abroad. She was acquitted of these accusations in the Court of Auditors. H owever, repeated deficits led the CVB on a downward spiral until a new management team was nominated in September 2001 and s upervised by the IFRC under the aegis of a lawyer, Luiz Fernando Hernández, who smoothed internal tensions and paved the way for more decentralised management by revising the statutes in January 2004. Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan Red Cross, CRN (Cruz Roja Nicaragüense ), encountered similar problems after an audit revealed important discrepancies in the financial years between January 2000 and December 2001. The head of the organisation, Esperanza Bermúdez de Morales, was accused of misappropriating funds and falsifying accounts with help from her son, who had conveniently been nominated to the position of legal advisor. The CRN employed a large workforce, but was unable to produce financial statements on expenses, assets, and the use of public subsidies and cash donations after Hurricanes Mitch in October 1998 and Felix in September 2007. Esperanza Bermúdez de Morales was eventually forced to resign when t he Court of Auditors launched an official investigation in March 2008.

6) Public relations
-On a financial level, the ICRC is relatively transparent and can be credited for identifying “earmarked” funds in its budget: it was one of the few humanitarian organisations to do so in the 2000s. Like the American Red Cross since 1900, it began in 1948 to publish annual reports, first in French, then in English only from 1998 onwards . As the organisation has grown, so have its yearly reports, which adopted a lengthier format in 1975 and became increasingly voluminous with a n average of 101 pages in the 1950s, 95 in the 1960s, 116 in the 1970s, 138 in the 1980s, 308 in the 1990s and 395 in 2000-2005 . However, there are inconsistencies. From one decade to the next, annual reports vary considerably in their presentation of the budget , the workforce or the frequency of visits to prisoners of war and prisoners of conscience . From 1990, for instance, the number of national societies recognised by the ICRC was no longer included, after the controversy surrounding membership requests by the Palestinian Red Crescent and the Israeli Society of the Red Shield of David (Maguen David Adom). Such g aps make direct comparisons difficult and entail certain adjustments to follow the organisation’s evolution and performance. According to Michèle Mercier, ICRC annual reports ended up gaining in length what they were losing in substance. Whilst the number of pages doubled between 1992 and 2002, there was a flourishing of statistical, logistical and operational details that masked the most important issues on violations of international humanitarian law . Unlike the IFRC, which has produced yearbooks on natural disasters since 1993, the ICRC never risked publishing political analyses. In this, it also differs from Amnesty International, which has provide d detailed, country-specific accounts of human rights violations since 1962. In short, the Committee gives little explanation for its choices and decisions. According to Robert Lloyd et al., it prefers to work behind closed doors because of its recruitment methods by co-optation . Of all the humanitarian organisations studied by Hetty Kovach, only the IFRC is truly accountable, operating under a democratic system that prevents minorities from seizing power and ensures a balanced geographical representation of the movement's different members.

-Generally speaking, the Committee's communication policy could be best described as “reserved” or even “silent” and “subject to self-censorship”. The institution prefers to avoid controversy by not reporting complaints by national societies concerning violations of the Geneva Conventions: a special dispensation which was approved at the twentieth International Red Cross Conference in Vienna in October 1965. For Jacques Freymond, the ICRC's obligation is to be firm and vocal when promoting humanitarian law within a multilateral framework but discreet and flexible when bilateral diplomacy is required to gain access to victims. To assist prisoners of war or civilian detainees, for instance, the institution makes confidentiality a priority and deals directly with the authorities involved. After editing in Geneva, its delegates’ reports are sent exclusively to the governments concerned . Only after the authorities quote the least compromising passages of a report does the ICRC consider publishing the whole document in order to counter political propaganda. In a press release dated 19 March 2008, for example, the institution denied the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ claims that the number of missing persons and extra-judicial executions had dropped in 2007 according to confidential reports by Geneva. Most of the time, the Committee does not need to publish the conclusions of its inspections , as the authorities in charge are careful not to release any information at all on the subject. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was among the few to unilaterally decide to publish in its entirety an ICRC’s report on a visit to Long Kesh internment camp on 31 August 1972 .

-Communication between the Geneva Committee and the general public is just as economical. In the interests of impartiality, the organisation denounces warfare in general but does not condemn any war in particular. Nor is it opposed to the death penalty, unlike Amnesty International. This explains why the Geneva Conventions do not prohibit the execution of war criminals or rebellious prisoners of war. Consequently, the ICRC refused to comment on Saddam Hussein’s hanging in December 2006 (the late dictator had criticised the Committee because he had received only two letters from his family since his capture by American troops in Iraq in December 2003). In general, t he institution avoids controversial subjects that are likely to have political implications. In this respect, the ICRC differs from the LRC and IFRC whose recommendations on public health also address social issues. In the early 1920s, for instance, the League of Red Cross encouraged a form of social justice and democracy by requesting governments to improve labour conditions and tackle unemployment in order to reduce the likelihood of accidents and illness. As for t he ICRC, it only became involved in structural and political issues at the end of the Cold War, when it attempted to play a role in conflict prevention .

-In the same vein, the Committee’s press releases are not really designed for the media and, consequently, have little press coverage. According to Claudio Caratsch, vice-president of the ICRC and a former Swiss ambassador, they are more commonly used for negotiation purposes. The aim of t his humanitarian diplomacy is to encourage defecting governments to apply the Geneva Conventions. As a rule, the Committee is very discreet. It states what it does, not what it sees, and its declarations are coded. According to the Israeli historian Dominique-Debora Junod, “the ICRC members use neutral and impartial language. They do so by making clever turns of phrase with understatements, euphemisms, omissions, allusions, extrapolations and abstract ideas. Resulting language is very “waffly”, between neutrality and humanitarian ideals. Even after extensive examination, clear political intentions, emotions or personal feelings are few .” The ICRC “operates as a closed system” , explains Canadian expert Donald Tansley, who carried out an in-depth study of the movement. His report concluded that the Committee “is not open about what it is doing and why. It is not open to ideas and information from outside […] On the whole, the ICRC seems to have blurred the differences between the discretion which their work requires and an obsession with needless secrecy” ”.

-While Henry Dunant initially used the media to inform against the suffering of wounded soldiers at the Battle of Solferino, the organisation is nowadays completely committed to discretion and impartiality. As early as 1864 when it sent its first representative to the field, the Committee refused to take sides , assisted both parties to the conflict, made no comment as to the reasons behind the war and was eventually criticised by the press in Copenhagen because it failed to denounce Prussian attacks against two duchies coveted by the Danish crown, Schleswig and Holstein . The ICRC then continued to keep its communication policy under the strict control of its leader, Gustave Ador, who was, paradoxically, the owner of the Journal de Genève from 1871 to 1904. Until World War One, for example, non-members could not publish articles in the International Review of the Red Cross. In 1936 during the invasion of Ethiopia, the Committee even censored a report about fascist abuses as related by an envoy of the Save the Children Fund in Addis Ababa, Fritzi Small. Under pressure from the representative of the Italian Red Cross in Geneva, Guido Vinci Gigliucci, the article was removed from the International Review. The ICRC, explains Rainer Baudendistel, applied double standards in this regard, for both the Ethiopian and Italian Red Crosses denounced “barbaric” atrocities of the enemy, yet only the viewpoint of Roma was published in extenso. In the same vein, the Committee did not let researchers investigate its activities.  A rchives were classified and completely inaccessible to the general public , like those of Defence Ministries . Historians could consult a limited number of documents, but were not permitted to quote them, and had to agree in writing not to publish their work without the prior approval of the ICRC, which reserved the right to censorship. Only more than a century later, in January 1996, did the Committee decide, under pressure, to open its archives. Even now, a limitation period still applies, although the prescribed fifty years was reduced to forty in April 2004.

-The ICRC is also very strict on the obligation of discretion it requires of its delegates and collaborators.  Paul Des Gouttes, for instance, had to resign when several critical passages were deleted from the hagiography he wrote following the death of the ICRC president, Gustave Ador, in 1928. The ICRC even sued one of its delegates, Dres Balmer, who was posted to Zaire in 1979, Thailand in 1980 and El Salvador in 1981. His crime? He published a novel, Kupfer Stunde , where he described his prison visits and the suffering of the victims of the dictatorship in El Salvador . In late July 1982, Dres Balmer was summoned to Geneva and fired. Although the institution’s name was never mentioned, the ICRC argued that the book compromised its activities in Latin America , and obtained a Swiss court order to have it withdrawn . To avoid having the matter blown out of proportion or appearing to deny freedom of expression, the Committee eventually dropped the case in May 1984 when a French version of the book was published under the title L’heure de cuivre. Today, the ICRC remains vigilant, and keeps a close eye on the distribution of its internal newsletter, L’Avenue de la paix, where staff air their personal views.

-Consequently, the Committee rarely denounces the exactions witnessed by its collaborators. To avoid angering independence supporters who fought against the Dutch colonisers in Indonesia in July 1947, for instance, the ICRC reprimanded its representative at Batavia for launching a radio appeal to persuade the insurgents to stop violence against Chinese minorities. From experience, Geneva knew that leaks to the press could have negative effects for victims. The Swiss newspapers, for instance, had jeopardised negotiations with the Nazis when journalists claimed that French women held at Ravensbruck had given military information on Germany while being freed and evacuated to Switzerland in April 1945 . As a result, the ICRC only makes statements on serious, repeated violations that are corroborated by reliable sources, where diplomatic measures have not ended abuse and when a public accusation may help victims. This explains why the presence of delegates in the field is essential, especially when they are the only witnesses to exactions. Because it was not operational on site, for example, the ICRC refrained from denouncing the use of chemical weapons by Greek troops to smoke out the communists hiding out in the Peloponnese after the 1947 uprising. Likewise, it ignored reports by the press and freedom fighters that South African planes were spraying weed killer to destroy crops destined for the Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Mozambique) in north Mozambique, according to an article from Le Monde dated 12 July 1972. It adopted a similar approach to the use of toxic gases by the Portuguese army against the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola), which denounced the problem in a statement on 10 July 1970. Nor is the presence of delegates sufficient to convince the ICRC to comment on violations of humanitarian law . The Committee publicly expressed its disapproval of the use of toxic gas in Yemen in 1967, but not in Ethiopia in 1936 or in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971, even though teams had been deployed in all of these countries. In Ethiopia and Vietnam, only one party to the conflict had an air force, so a denunciation would have clearly identified the culprit, unlike World War One, when both the Allies and Germany spread gases. Morocco, where the ICRC did not intervene during the Rif War, was an exception because of the pressure of public opinion and the approval of the government in Madrid, which authorized the Committee to publish its confidential correspondence over the use of mustard gas by Spanish colonial troops in a special issue of the International Review of the Red Cross in November 1925.

-Drafted in 1981 and amended in 2005, a document called “Doctrine 15” now sets out the various stages before the institution can denounce exactions and release confidential information . In the first stage, the plan i s to inform and discreetly involve third parties who might be able to convince defaulting nations to apply the Geneva Conventions. If unsuccessful, the Committee makes public statements on the lack of progress in negotiations. As a last resort, it can opt to denounce massive and repeated violations of human rights witnessed by its delegates in the field, as long as this is not prejudicial for victims. T he threat of withdrawal can also be used to negotiate aid as it destroys the reputation of those responsible for atrocities. In press releases dated 21 March and 12 October 1973, for instance, the ICRC announced it was discontinuing visits to prisons in South Vietnam because its delegates were not allowed to be alone when interviewing political prisoners. However, the Committee has seldom used this strategy, unlike Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).

-There are two conflicting views on this matter. The first, favoured by the ICRC, promotes confidentiality to avoid exposing victims and humanitarian workers to possible repercussions should they denounce abuses , even if their silence legitimises reprehensible practices . The second, favoured by Doctors Without Borders , informs against atrocities witnessed by the personnel posted on site, at the risk of being expelled and compromising aid operations . Both positions seem mutually exclusive. Thu s Bernard Kouchner had to leave the Red Cross and break his obligation of discretion to denounce the “genocide” committed by the Nigerian army during the Biafra War. Anne de Loisy also resigned to write a book about police violence towards detained asylum seekers in airports where she had acted as a mediator for the French Red Cross. Actually, the ICRC's discretion is not a requirement of international humanitarian law. In the field, other organisations are more vocal when dealing with prisoners of war, civilian detainees and displaced people. Even the UNHCR ( High Commission for Refugees), one of the United Nation’s least outspoken agencies , is less reserved than the ICRC when it comes to criticis ing the asylum policies of those countries it works in . T he Geneva Committee is the product of a Swiss culture based on secrecy. According to Donald Tansley, the organisation often decides to keep silent because it is easier, not because it is necessar y .

-For the ICRC, there are two main advantages to discretion. F irstly, it provides the best protection for victims and, secondly, it allows the organisation to remain impartial. From Geneva's standpoint, confidentiality is more effective when attempting to develop a relationship of trust with warring parties, detaining authorities or perpetrators of violence. Consequently, the organisation’s visits to prisoners of conscience outnumber those of Amnesty International. According to some observers, this strategy pays off. A New York Times article published on 8 June 1974 claimed that the ICRC’s inspections led to an improvement in detention conditions for Israeli prisoners of war in Syria. Following a confidential letter of Samuel Gonard on 27 January 1969, cases of torture in Israel jails were also reduced according to the Sunday Times of 18 September 1977. Moreover, well-known detainees testified to the positive impact of the Committee on being released. Both Nelson Mandela at the Geneva headquarters in 1990 and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's at the Rangoon branch of the ICRC in 2002 paid tribute to the discreet work of the institution’s delegates . Public denunciations of the perpetrators of atrocities risk compromising victims and humanitarian programmes. Moreover, they mean nothing if they are not relayed by the international community. As Simone Delorenzi explains, during the Cold War, the ICRC did not comment on the gulags in the Soviet Union or the occupation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China because the Western bloc would not have supported a right of intervention . Today, echoes of this policy can be seen in the case of Chechnya. In his tribute to jurist Jean Pictet, Jacques Moreillon writes: “for the Red Cross, to condemn an aggressor does not simply prevent access to the victims , but also closes other doors, because even aggressors have friends, as they always had. In fact, you cannot condemn one aggressor and ignore another. In multiplying its condemnations , the Red Cross would only be able to work in the few countries that fully respect international humanitarian law... and do not have victims anyway .”

-The Committee’s refusal to publicly denounce violations is therefore motivated by the desire to keep communications channels open with the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. According to Daniel Muñoz-Rojas and Jean-Jacques Frésard, the promotion of humanitarian law is more effective than calls for compassion or moral judgements to improve victims’ situations. In the words of François Bugnion, “the ICRC has realised that a confidential approach is infinitely more likely to result in the desired outcome — putting a stop to violations — than a publicly aired intervention. I n most cases, governments that have been criticised are less willing to remedy the contravention they have been accused of because it could be seen as an act of admission. They would rather justify their posi tion , and diplomats are never short of arguments in this regard. How many times have we seen public demonstrations that have been counter-productive? The country in the firing line hardens its position […] to prove it has done nothing wrong. Inevitably, it is the victims that pay the price.” François Bugnion goes on to explain the three main objections to informing against abuses. Firstly, “certain violations become stigmatised, almost arbitrarily, […] while others, of equal or greater importance are not denounced.” Secondly, “legal formalism focuses on violations that have been clearly identified , but pays less attention to their seriousness or the suffering they cause .” Thirdly, “ more and more appeals can bring less responses”, as human tragedies become increasingly commonplace.

-Being discrete does have the advantage of helping the institution to remain impartial. In fact, neutrality is not always compatible with informing against abuse. This is why the Geneva Committee tries to avoid being used by warring parties in propaganda politics. For example, it rarely follows up on demands by opposition parties in exile to inspect the prisons of a dictatorship. Between 1958 and 1970, it only acted on roughly 25% of such requests, according a study by Jacques Moreillon . In this respect, it pays not to scrutinise too closely the annual ICRC reports . If we are to believe David Forsythe’s article in the Human Rights Quarterly, increased prison visits would indicate the existence of a problem, whilst a decrease would signal the situation’s return to normality. But actually , ICRC activities behind closed doors are determined by accessibility and do not necessarily reflect the intensity of repression. Basically, the number of prisons inspections depends on how frequently the institution has been authorised to enter detention centres. A lack of visits does not always mean that prisoners’ rights have been respected. Consequently, s ince 1987, the ICRC has specified in the introduction to its annual reports in French that “the length of text dealing with a country or a given situation is not necessarily in proportion to the seriousness of the problems brought to light and dealt with by the institution. There are situations, of great importance on a humanitarian level, that are not mentioned here simply because the ICRC was refused permission to act. On the other hand, the description of situations where the ICRC was given permission to run a wide variety of activities requires a lot of space, and the length of the text has no relation to the seriousness of the humanitarian problems encountered”.

-At the end of the day, Geneva’s statements and operations depend on accessibility and not the intensity of crises despite the wish to remain impartial at all times. According to Donald Tansley, for instance, the ICRC favoured Cyprus over Cambodia in 1974, and American prisoners of war in Vietnam over victims of the Burundi pogroms in 1972. The bias was most certainly caused by geographical proximity, mandate reasons or cultural affinities, and not simply funding or logistics. Catherine Rey-Schyrr, one of the movement’s official historians, admitted that after 1945, the ICRC went a little too far in its efforts for German prisoners of war: i t even offered legal assistance to those being accused of crimes against humanity. Lacking financial and legal means, it was less involved in helping other equally needy populations in Europe, not to mention the Jewish victims of the holocaust. The Cold War years were a key example of this. On the one hand, the ICRC had almost no access to communist countries and therefore had little to say about the gulag. On the other hand, it was involved with communist prisoners in Greece in the 1960s and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and its annual reports were used by leftists to denounce right-wing dictatorships.

-In spite or because of restrictions in the field, the same ICRC humanitarian action could inspire different interpretations. Geneva's comments on the United States and Israel are revealing. After the war against terror was launched by Washington in 2001, asserts David Forsythe, the organisation took two years to comment on violations of international humanitarian law at Guantanamo for fear of antagonising its most important funder . Lee Casey and David Rivkin, on the other hand, considered that the Committee overstepped its mandate and failed in its duty of discretion by openly criticising George Bush’s policy in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay from 2003 onwards. They stressed that the ICRC asked the White House to apply rules the American government had not even adopted, namely the additional protocols of 1977. It seemed like an easy way out: attacking a democracy rather than one of the many dictatorships whose human rights violations could have been denounced. By doing so, the ICRC appl ied a double standard, as it was not as virulent against others that had refused to give “prisoner of war” status to captured American soldiers in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and, more recently, Afghanistan . This view was shared by the Republican senator Daniel Fata, a head of national security studies. In his opinion, the ICRC’s campaign against violations of international humanitarian law by the United States after 2001 was of unprecedented scale, and tantamount to Amnesty International’s lobbying. As a result, Daniel Fata encouraged the White House to reconsider its relationship with the Geneva Committee, especially as Washington was the institution’s biggest funder.

-Israel and the occupied territories also presented numerous challenges for objective communication after the Six Day war in June 1967. On one side, Amnesty International accused the ICRC of relaying the Jewish propaganda because it was officially satisfied with detention conditions. Actually, reports the Sunday Times of 19 June 1977, the institution was not immediately informed of new arrests, it could not conduct surprise visits, it was not allowed to interview prisoners during interrogation, and it had no access to special cells, police posts and military barracks where, precisely, there was a strong risk of torture. The government and its army, Tsahal, refused to apply the Geneva Conventions de jure, arguing the conflict was “internal” . The ICRC was only able to intervene with a full mandate to assist 20,000 Syrian inhabitants of the Golan Heights, for whom family reunification procedures were arranged and visits organised across the border. But in the Palestinian territories, the Committee had to rely on a de facto permission. So it was more vulnerable to government pressure, especially when some of its confidential reports were leaked in the United Nations and used by Arab countries to denounce Israel. As a result, the ICRC had to stop to mention the names of the victims of torture and, to check their allegations, it was compelled to confront Palestinian prisoners with those they accused of wrongdoing. In a press communiqué dated 12 January 1976, the Committee eventually admitted that all detention problems had not been solved. The communication battle was definitely not over. On 18 September 1977, the Sunday Times revealed that the ICRC had submitted more than 200 complaints about ill-treatment, yet the Israeli ministry of Justice pretended that Geneva’s confidential reports were positive… and refused to publish them. The scandal led the Committee to fire its general delegate in Israel, André Tschiffeli, who had given an interview to the Jerusalem Post of 5 August 1977 to deny the accusations of the Sunday Times about the systematic use of torture on Palestinian prisoners.

On the other side, the ICRC faced considerable wariness from the Jewish authorities. It was already suspected of being anti-Semitic because of its doubtful role during World War Two and its failure to recognise the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, the MDA (Maguen David Adom) . Officially the ICRC could not accredit the MDA because of its logo, but unofficially it hoped that this position would encourage Arab states to ratify the Geneva Conventions. During the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, the institution appealed to all parties in the conflict to spare civilians, and publicly criticised Israel's non-committal approach to the issue. At the same time, it failed to comment on similar lapses by other belligerents like Egypt, which had recognised the ICRC’s appeal on condition of reciprocity, thus contravening the Geneva Conventions. Again, in December 1973, the Geneva Committee provoked strong reactions when it supported the creation of an international panel to investigate violations of international humanitarian law in the region. Even if it was not directly involved in the project, the institution took the liberty to openly denounce abuses, in particular those committed by Tsahal soldiers. The head of its delegation in Tel Aviv, René Kosirnik, further angered the authorities when he described Jewish settlements in occupied territories as a war crime and let his interview be published in the International Herald Tribune on 18 May 2001. In the same vein, Cornelio Sommaruga, president of the Committee, compromised its neutrality when he announced he would take part in a United Nations Commission to investigate the massacre of Palestinian refugees at Jenin in April 2002: the project met with strong opposition from Tsahal and was never actually set up . In sum, the ICRC has been accused of exaggerating problems and extensively criticising the Israelis despite its silence on the holocaust during World War Two. Admittedly, the organisation did call on Palestinian terrorists to stop targeting civilians and publicly condemned their violations of the Geneva Conventions. However, it mainly focused on the behaviour of Israel by denouncing its destruction of homes, forced evacuations, expropriations and transfers of Arab populations . Its protestations even increased over time. After several “off the record” warnings , the Committee denounced the use of torture in a press release dated 21 May 1992. Later on, it declared the Jewish settlements to be incompatible with articles 27 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. In a press release dated 5 December 2001 , it extended its criticisms to occupations of land, in addition to army check-points and the deliberate hampering of humanitarian aid activities. In another communiqué on 18 February 2004, it eventually took a public stand against Israel’s construction of a barrier along the edge of the occupied territories. Built for safety purposes, the wall actually facilitated seizures of Palestinian property and was the subject of a United Nations complaint at the International Court of Justice.

-Nevertheless, the Committee is usually considered by funders and observers as one of the most impartial humanitarian organisations on earth. According to a survey that was carried out at Geneva’s request and whose methodology was not made public, for instance, respectively 100%, 94% and 90% of 1,200 Lebanese people interviewed after the Israeli attack of 2006 thought that the ICRC was trustworthy, independent and neutral. Only 8% felt that the Committee recruited its employees because of their Christian faith rather than their professional skills. Donald Tansley's 1975 report had already confirmed this state of affairs: “For individuals caught up in international and non-international armed conflicts, political prisoners, victims of hostage-taking and kidnappings, refugees and other victims in distress, no ICRC activities are incomplete, ineffective or ill-considered.” While political errors have been made, reiterates David Forsythe, the Committee has never deliberately covered up non-humanitarian activities. Its directors have always tried to provide aid in an impartial and neutral manner. In fact, the ICRC is more independent of the Swiss government than most national societies. It is therefore in a better position to provide aid impartially compared to local Red Crosses . Of course some national societies do attempt to remain neutral . Thus the Australian Red Cross withdrew from   the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA) in 1978 after this NGO lobby became increasingly political in its comments on American military operations in Vietnam in 1973 or Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975. In the same vein, explains Tanja Schümer , the BRCS (British Red Cross Society) withdrew from a forum that criticised London's aid policies in Sierra Leone in 1998. To remain impartial in North Caucasus in the early 2000s, add Abby Stoddard et al., the organisation then indiscriminately distributed aid instead of targeting the neediest villages and appearing to give preferential treatment to some clans to the detriment of others. T he League of Red Cross Societies was as careful during the Vietnam War. According to Daphne Reid and Patrick Gilbo, its official publications tried to give the impression that activities focused equally on the communist North and nationalist South despite the involvement of the American Red Cross on the side of Saigon. But g enerally speaking, national societies are far from neutral. When their country is at war , they often adopt excessively patriotic tones . Nor do they remain unaffected by conflicts taking place in foreign lands. Succumbing to pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, who wanted to send humanitarian aid to Madrid to compensate for its arms embargo, the American Red Cross took sides with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War . According to Charles Hurd, it was only in February 1939, at the end of the conflict, that it started to supply the Nationalists of General Francisco Franco . The Russian Red Cross did not perform better and paid journalists to produce smug reports on socialism’s progress in the Soviet Union, as explained by Sam Russell, who was interviewed in Le Monde on 25 March 2006 and who had been the Moscow correspondent for the British Communist party mouthpiece, The Daily Worker,in the 1950s . Nor did the IFRC escape Cold War tensions. On the one hand, it acted as a platform for Red Cross organisations denouncing imperialism. On the other, it consolidated the position of the United States' allies by refusing to exclude from its ranks Latin American dictatorships or the South African apartheid regime . Just a fter he took the reins of the IFRC in 1987, Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander publicly declared his support for El Salvador’s head of state, regardless of the ICRC’s attempts to remain impartial.

-Regarding communication, it remains to be seen whether the Committee's policy of confidentiality actually helps victims. In his autobiography, for instance, Carl-Jacob Burckhardt claimed to have obtained the transfer of the brutal commandant of the Esterwegen concentration camp by discreetly informing the authorities in 1936. However, he failed to mention that the said commandant went on to become the head of the Dachau complex, one of the largest Jewish extermination centres in World War Two! According to the Swiss historian Paul Stauffer, this omission was part of a plan to make the ICRC look good in the face of accusations of anti-Semitism after 1945. In any case, it did not prove the efficien cy of confidentiality to discourage abuses. In fact, the ICRC's policy of silence is based on a misunderstanding of the benefits of denunciation. Delegates’ testimonies did not always have negative impacts for victims. During World War One, the Committee published and sold its reports on visits to prisoners of war without compromising their well-being. Such transparency was instrumental in bringing cycles of retaliation to an end, as it reassured governments and public opinion in warring countries. Later on, when the ICRC began to assist political prisoners, the advantages of eyewitness accounts were also obvious . In the aftermath of the Greek civil war , for example, the organisation got the consent of Athens to publish extracts of prison inspections in the International Review of the Red Cross of February 1949 , and this initiative created support for civilian detainees. In January 1960, again, the French press leaked a Committee report on prisoners in Algeria that was instrumental in the army’s decision to give up torture. In the same vein , Geneva’s criticisms of chemical weapons caused Egypt to stop using toxic gases during the civil war in North Yemen in 1967. Exposure of human rights violations has not jeopardised ICRC activities. In 1977, after it publicly objected to restrictions imposed on visits to communist prisoners in Indonesia, the Committee was given permission to return the following year to inspect detention camps. During the Iran–Iraq war in the 1980s, ICRC activities were suspended on numerous occasions but for reasons completely unrelated to the institution's accusations: indeed, operations were jeopardized by the warring parties even before the Committee publicly spoke up about their violations of the Geneva Conventions. Likewise, i n May 2004, leaks of ICRC confidential reports to the American and British press did not prevent the organisation from continuing to visit prisoners held by the Allies in Iraq. On the contrary, photos of torture in the Abu Ghraib prison led the occupying troops to react and carry out investigations. Meanwhile, ICRC confidential visits had not seemed to improve detention conditions. Worse still, they caused the authorities to move prisoners away, to avoid facing criticism. According to the New York Times on 18 June 2004, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Head of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), George Tenet, had order ed in October 2003 to ho ld an alleged terrorist in secret so that he could not be assisted or identified by the Committee .

-At the end of the day, the ICRC's discretion can be counter-productive . As the Canadian expert Donald Tansley explains in his 1975 report: “Secrecy on some matters is harmful to protection and assistance efforts. If others do not know what you are doing, they cannot possibly support you, and they may distrust you as well ”. Indeed, the ICRC has occasionally been suspected of spying. For example, in Algeria during World War Two, one of its associates, Georges Graz, was accused of intelligence because he was in touch with a German agent and produced a lengthy report on the political situation in North Africa . In October 1943, he was briefly taken into custody, but released after four days thanks to the intervention of the Swiss Consul in Algiers. The incident showed how the Allied intelligence services were suspiciou s of the Geneva Committee’s supposed “neutrality”. Opened in 1996, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) archives in Washington revealed that a total of 21 ICRC delegates were suspected of spying for the Germans and accepting money stolen from the Jews by the Nazis! The United States knew what they were talking about. During the Korean War in 1950, the American Army taught its soldiers to pass encrypted messages in the mail carried by the ICRC, in case they were taken prisoner. Germans and Austrians also had previous experience, as seen in the case of Countess Nora Kinsky. Originally from Bohemia, she was suspected by Moscow of spying under cover of the German Red Cross and its assistance programme for soldiers captured in Russia during World War One. According to Monica Czemin's documentary movie aired on the Franco-German television channel Arte on 21 November 2007, she allegedly handed over information to Vienna on prisoners of war who supported the independence of Slavic countries and established a Czech legion that fought the Austro-Hungarian Empire alongside the Russians in 1916. Likewise, adds Rainer Baudendistel, a nurse of the Egyptian “Red Cross” helped the fascists in Somalia to localise and bomb a Turkish General under the orders of the Negus at Bulale during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936.

-In addition to these problems, the ICRC's policy of confidentiality has three other disadvantages. Firstly, it prevents the aggressors from being held accountable, to the point that the Committee appears complicit. Secondly, it masks evidence that could be used to condemn war criminals being tried in international or local tribunals. Thirdly, it is incoherent, because the task of exposing abuses is passed on to other organisations and the Committee cannot control “leaks” of its confidential reports. As the defender of the Geneva Conventions , the institution too often plays a purely administrative role, just noting down the various violations of the international humanitarian law. Regarding the Hungarian Jews during World War Two, for instance, Arieh Ben-Tov criticises the organisation’s “legal narrow-mindedness” and “excessive prudence”, hidden behind the official position to respect national sovereignty. This restraint is also visible in its assistance to prisoners of conscience. Between 1958 and 1970, the ICRC was informed of 71 countries where political detainees were mistreated. However, it only attempted to inspect 46 of them , of which 12 rejected its requests. According to Jacques Moreillon, the institution did not even try to visit the other 25 countries, as it expected a categorical refusal which might jeopardize relations should intervention in a major humanitarian crisis be needed. As a result, the ICRC chose to put off immediate action in favour of future opportunities.

-For Michael Ignatieff, the ICRC’s confidentiality is dangerous as it could be seen as tacit approval of human rights abuses and even genocides. In theory, condemnation by the Committee should lead to a response from the international community that would help bring an end to massacres . But remaining neutral means that the aggressors, torturers and war criminals end up shirking their responsibilities. By refusing to denounce Serbian crimes in Bosnia, claims for instance Gregory Kent, the ICRC contributed in blocking the possibilities of political and military intervention in the crisis. During a ministerial conference in Geneva on 29 July 1992, the organisation’s president chose to expose the ethnic cleansing operations without naming those responsible. In a speech delivered on 10 August 1992, Simone Veil, the leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament, criticised him severely for this, reminding him of the institution's guilty silences on the Jewish Holocaust during World War Two. Admittedly, the ICRC did speak out publicly against Serbian violations of the Geneva Conventions on 31 March 1993, including their commandeering of seventeen prisoners in Batkovic who were sent to dig trenches on the front line. But meanwhile, the institution tried to present a balanced vision of the situation and its appeal of 13 August 1992 claimed wrongs were committed by both sides. In the end, writes Gregory Kent, it exaggerated the slightest fault committed by Muslim forces and even went so far as to criticise them for mistreating prisoners at Celebici camp, which was in fact under Croatian control. The ICRC also failed to take into account the fact that the Bosnian enclave was probably unable to guarantee suitable detention conditions because its people were surrounded and already finding it extremely difficult to obtain supplies for themselves. By focusing on the treatment of prisoners, concludes Gregory Kent, the Committee covered up the genocidal nature of the war waged by the Serbs.

-A second problem, linked to the first, is that the ICRC's policy of confidentiality often jeopardises judicial attempts to condemn war criminals. The first president of the Committee , Gustave Moynier, who had envisaged an International Criminal Court in 1872, had no idea that the institution would later on hinder the investigators from gathering evidence. Historically, the ICRC wa s rarely approached in such matters. After World War One, the Allies did not want to destabilise the Weimar Republic and therefore left it up to the Germans to set up a Tribunal in Leipzig to judge citizens accused of war crimes. Of 896 suspects, only 12 were actually brought to justice and the majority was acquitted , including a Captain, Karl Neumann, who had violated the Red Cross emblem and torpedoed a British hospital ship, the Dover Castle, whilst it was transporting troops. In the end, only two officers were expelled from the army, and they did not even serve their four-year sentences despite their machine-gunning of the survivors fleeing the Llandovery Castle, a hospital ship that had been sunk by the German navy. The Allies, with the exception of the British and Americans, condemned this travesty of justice and took matters into their own hands. More than 1,200 trials were conducted in France and around 80 in Belgium.  But at no point did the authorities call on the ICRC to testify against the perpetrators of war crimes. Nor did the Committee play a part in the Istanbul trials conducted by the Turkish against their own military: a tougher exercise, as shown by the sheer number of cases and convictions being handed down with death penalties . Unlike the Germans, who were primarily concerned with preventing the establishment of an I nternational Court of Justice, the Ottoman Empire actually sought to impress the Allies, in the hope of limiting the reparations payable under a peace treaty . It also took advantage of the situation to indict opponents from the Ittihad party and make them responsible for the Armenian genocide. As a result, there was no need for Geneva to supply additional evidence. Later on, Max Huber, ICRC president from 1928 to 1945, was content to let things lie in this area, despite being a member of the International Court of Justice in The Hague from 1922 to 1930. In 1936, he even refused to give to the League of Nations evidence on abuses committed by the Italians in Ethiopia. And in 1943, again, he abstained from responding to a Nazi to investigate on the Katyn massacre.

-It is mainly after the Second World War that t he Committee began systematically refusing to participate in enquiries into violations of international humanitarian law . During the negotiations for the adoption of t he Geneva Conventions in 1949, it ensured that soldiers accused of crimes against humanity would continue to hold the status of prisoners of war until found guilty. According to t he ICRC, the Allies were bound by their conventional obligations and could not unilaterally modify the reasons for the detention of a soldier until he or she was repatriated and definitively liberated. The Committee had strong reservations about the artificial “transformation” of prisoners of war who, once freed, were almost immediately rearrested as civilians based on, for instance, their connections with the national-socialist party in Germany or imperialist circles in Japan. The ICRC anticipated problems when the United States and the Soviet Union refused to grant access to the soldiers they had captured. Moscow wanted war criminals to be considered outside of the Geneva Conventions and subject to Russian common law. Washington, on the other hand, had passed anti-Nazi regulations that were effective retroactively and went against the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Afterwards, the cold war confirmed that enquiries into violations of international humanitarian law could be very compromising for a neutral institution, especially when the Geneva Committee made the mistake to accept a request by the Western members of the United Nations Security Council to investigate the use of chemical weapons by the United States during the Korean War. After this controversy, the ICRC refused to follow up requests by the Tunisian government or by the French Army to investigate, respectively, French abuses in Bizerte in July 1961 or a massacre by Algerian freedom fighters in Melouza in June 1957. Each time, the Geneva Committee argued that its delegates did not witness the problems and that its role was only to relay complaints against violations of international humanitarian law according to a memorandum signed on 12 September 1939 and confirmed on 23 November 1951. In Congo after January 1961, for instance, it refused to participate to an investigation on the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and to provide to the United Nations the reports of its delegates, who were the last to interview the victim before he disappeared. Likewise, it refused in January 1968 to communicate information on abuses committed by the military dictatorship in Greece . W hen Turkish troops invaded Northern Cyprus in April 1974, notes Theodor Meron, the ICRC even unwittingly deterred the European Court of Human Rights from enquiring into the treatment of prisoners of war at the hands of Ankara, as they were already being assisted by Geneva. Finally, when the International Criminal Court was set up in 1998, the Committee was formally dispensed from testifying before judges who were investigating crimes against humanity. It argued that, otherwise, those responsible for the atrocities would be tempted to systematically expel humanitarian organisations on the battlefields. Thus in 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) refused to hear a former translator of the ICRC who wanted to testify against Milan and Blagoje Simic. The procurator argued in vain that the Committee was restricting individual freedom, and Geneva replied that confidentiality was mentioned in the contract of its employee and was still valid thereafter. The Tribunal also reminded the various positions of the ICRC, who sometimes denounced human rights violations and allowed three delegates to write an answer to questions raised by defenders during the Nuremberg trials in 1946. The Committee replied that at the time, these testimonies did not contain any specific information on the accused. Moreover, it was the institution which ultimately decided to let its staff testify. The ICTY could compel states to disclose secret information, as it did with Croatia in 1997. But in the present case, the Committee had the same objectives as the Tribunal. An international institution, the ICRC claimed to be on par with the ICTY. It was not a state, neither than an intergovernmental organisation or a member of the United Nations. So it couldn’t be under a tribunal that was set up by a resolution of the UN. In 2000, however, it couldn’t prevent the ICTY from using without its consent ICRC reports that were given to the Court in 1999 and transferred to the lawyers of Stevan Todorovic, the Serbian police chief in Bosnia en 1994. In 2004, again, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (UNICTR) did not extend the institution’s exemption to Red Cross societies, and did call volunteers who were not directly employed by the Geneva Committee during the genocide in 1994.

-A third problem is the inconsistencies in the ICRC's policy of confidentiality. T he Committee cannot prevent others from denouncing violations of international humanitarian law . As a result, the organisation can always be called to account by the media for “knowing but doing nothing.” The stubborn silence of the institution has sometimes been so embarrassing that authors like Keith Suter have recommended that the IFRC take care of relief operations so that the ICRC can monitor and expose violations of the Geneva Conventions without compromising assistance to victims.

-Two questions must be asked at this point: what are the outsiders’ initiatives , and is the Committee’s communication policy coherent? With regard to the first question, the ICRC cannot really control the publication of its reports of prison visits. It can only stop communicating them to the detaining authorities. During the Korean War, for instance, it wanted to appear willing to intervene in the North as well as the South, and took great pains to publish the unanswered letters it had sent to the Pyongyang regime from September 1950 onwards, in order to prove that it was the communists who refused its assistance in their zone. However, the Committee had to change tactics when the American army suspended its right of access to Koje-do Island , where some prisoners of war rebelled and were killed in February 1952. Fearing political propaganda, Geneva decided to stop sending reports of its visits to the warring parties. Its embargo was not only directed against North Korea for declining the ICRC’s offers of help. It also targeted the United States, as they had prevented the transmission to the enemy of a Committee’s report on the rebellion at Koje-do . To avoid being accused of taking sides, Geneva exceptionally chose to publish parts of this report in the International Review of the Red Cross in April 1952.

-Usually, it is governments that decide on whether to release or not confidential Committee documents . Sometimes justice demands publication, for instance at the end of the Vietnam War, when the American authorities were compelled to hand over the ICRC's reports from Saigon after extracts were featured in the Washington Post of 22- 23 June, and 23 July 1975. Political propaganda also plays a role . In 1969, for instance, the Greek military junta cited the most positive aspects of the Committee's prison inspections and thus forced the institution to publish the full document. This was to counter criticism by the opposition for painting the detention conditions in too favourable a light. In 1949 during the civil war , communist insurgents had already slammed Geneva for publishing extracts of its visit reports with the consent of the authorities to reassure the international community. But the ICRC has also been criticised in the opposite case: w hen governments refuse to release its confidential reports. In the United States in 2003, for example, President George Bush Junior decided not to publish positive ICRC reports on the improvement of detention conditions in Iraq because that would have forced him to give information on how prisoners were treated by the American Army in Afghanistan or Guantanamo . As a result, the Committee was unable to present evidence challenging the conservatives who accused the organisation of unduly criticising Washington or, on the other hand, the liberals who reproached it for being too lenient on its biggest funder.

-In an interview with Le Monde newspaper on 29 June 2006, the head of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, admitted that the communication policy of the institution could sometimes appear incoherent. For example, the Committee denounced secret detentions by American security services in Iraq in 2004, but not by the Russians in the Caucasus in 2006 because it had been expelled from the region and had no witnesses on the ground . The ICRC’s communications always depended on access to victims. As a result, the organisation kept quiet about communist gulags, for it was not allowed to assist their prisoners. Meanwhile, it was able to send delegates to conservative countries, and therefore spoke out against authoritarian regimes allied to the United States during the Cold War. In a single territory, the Committee also gave the impression of implementing a double standard according to the legal categorisation of victims. During World War Two, i t protected the military held by the Germans but remained completely silent on the Jews at the hands of the Nazis . Likewise, it denounced violations of the Geneva Conventions during the Iran-Iraq War, especially when Saddam Hussein's troops reso rted to chemical weapons from November 1983 onwards. In a press release dated 23 March 1988, for instance, the Committee condemned the use of gas in the city of Halabja in the Kurdish province of Suleimaniyeh. But it restricted its communication to the military alone. It waited until the defeat of Saddam Hussein's regime in January 1991 before speaking out about the massacre of civilians in Halabja.

-In the same vein, the ICRC has not always been coherent in imposing a duty of confidentiality on its delegates. On the one hand, as we have seen, it censored Paul Des Gouttes and brought legal proceedings against Dres Balmer. On the other hand, it did not reprimand some delegates who spoke out on their own. In 1939, its former representative in Addis-Ababa, Sydney Brown, was one of the firsts to publish ICRC confidential reports in order to denounce the Italian abuses and the compromises of the institution with Roma during the invasion of Ethiopia in 1936. Geneva did not react, as it had already fired him after receiving dubious information from the fascist secret services and a private detective hired by the Italian Red Cross to blackmail and buy Sydney Brown’s silence by proving his alleged homosexuality. Marcel Junod then published his memoirs on the Spanish Civil war without being criticised by the Committee. An officer in the French Army and an ICRC delegate from 1936 to 1947, Raymond Courvoisier also escaped the wrath of Geneva when he explained in his biography how the Republican prisoners of war were exploited by the Nationalists in iron ore mines . As for Jacques de Reynier’s testimony on the massacre of Deir Yassine by the Israeli A rmy on 10 April 1948, it was widely used by the Arab League and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) for political propaganda. The ICRC was similarly silent in 1996, when Laurent Marti, the founder of the Red Cross and Red Crescent museum, dredged up some bitter souvenirs.  The sociologist Carlos Bauverd was also free to express his political opinions as long as he said nothing about his work at the Committee. Even René Kosirnik, the head of the ICRC delegation at Tel-Aviv, kept his position despite his declarations in the International Herald Tribune in 2001.

-Undeniably, Geneva's communication policy has changed over time. Keith Suter quotes Melchoir Borsinger, the ICRC General Delegate for Europe in 1974, who explained that initially, the Committee had little to lose, and could therefore talk freely . As the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, however, it became more institutionalised and concerned with its international reputation. After its silence during World War Two, the ICRC initially attempted to reply to accusations of being biased in favour of Germany in 1939-1945 or South Korea in 1950, for example in its annual report from 1952. But the taste for secrecy soon took over, as noted by historian Caroline Moorehead. Over the next three decades, the ICRC spoke out on average once a year. It was only when human rights organisations began asserting themselves that the Committee's attitude changed. After denouncing the use of toxic gases in Yemen in 1967, the ICRC alerted the international community of violations of the Geneva Conventions during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Protests multiplied in the 1980s. For instance, Geneva made statements on the impossibility of accomplishing its mission in Afghanistan after the Red Army’s invasion in 1979. In 1984, again, it publicly criticised the Islamic Republic of Iran for indoctrinating its prisoners of war to turn them against Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq. According to an article published in The Economist on 21 May 1988, the ICRC’s statements on violations of international humanitarian law were more frequent between 1980 and 1987 than between 1945 and 1980: 37 compared to 35. The end of the Cold War, explains Nicholas Berry, eventually allowed the institution to shake off its reserve and demand a stricter application of the Geneva Conventions without being unfairly accused of serving Western interests. The development of humanitarian interventions meant the ICRC launched 104 appeals to the international community between 1989 and 1996, compared to 74 between 1946 and 1987. A focus on the Balkan conflicts in Europe contributed to this evolution: in 1991 and 1992, notes Michèle Mercier, Yugoslavia was the subject of 40% of the Committee's press releases, to the detriment of other major crises in Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan. Changes in fundraising policy – with a renewed focus on private sources – also led the ICRC to modernise its marketing strategies and advocacy policies. Merging two pre-existing entities, a dedicated department, COMREX, was set up in June 1992 for communication and external resources . Since then, the institution has continued to open up by launching a website in 1995 and establishing a media relations office in London in 2004. In 2007, for instance, the ICRC published eye-witness accounts of the war victims in Iraq, under the title Blessures dans le palmier dattier (“Injuries in the date palm”).

7) Links to political circles
-Despite its attempts to remain impartial , the Geneva Committee has close ties to Swiss authorities, as shown by its relations with the government and the political careers of some its members . In a small country, explains Hans-Peter Gasser, it is difficult to find experienced staff. As a result, the institution recruited in governmental circles . Gustave Ador, for instance, ran the ICRC between August 1910 and March 1928, in parallel with his political activities. After a period as a municipal councillor between June 1870 and May 1878, he was mayor of Coligny from June 1878 to November 1879, and again from June 1882 to March 1885. He was also nominated to the Grand Council of Geneva in November 1874 and November 1879 as a member of an independent group which joined forces with the Liberal-Conservatives to become the Democratic Party and oppose James Fazy’s Radicals. Gustave Ador then ran the City Police between November 1879 and November 1880, and the Department of Finance from March 1885 to November 1897. He supported strict budgetary policy and opposed the social insurance scheme put forward by his main rival, the Radical Georges Favon. He also fought Socialist plans for a welfare state and tax increases. As a Liberal, h e was against strong public sector growth . When supervising charities as the head of the Conf ederation’s Department of the Interior between 1918 and 1919, he preferred to hand over social welfare to private organisations. It was again as a Liberal that he entered the Swiss government after representing the Geneva Canton and presiding its Council of State in 1889. At the Federal Council in Berne, he replaced in July 1917 Arthur Hoffmann, who was accused of compromising the country’s neutrality by brokering a peace agreement between Germany and Russia in the middle of World War One. Gustave Ador took charge of the Foreign Office and supported the American project to create the League of Nations. As president of the Swiss Confederation between January and December 1919, he even managed to fix the new organisation’s headquarters in Geneva. He also succeeded in having his country admitted as a member despite a traditional commitment to neutrality that prevented Berne from participating in peacekeeping operations .

-Gustave Ador’s successor, Max Huber, was also an expert in multiple mandates. Between April 1931 and November 1932, he presided both the Geneva Committee and the Nansen International Office, a governmental organisation set up by the League of Nations to control flows of refugees . In February 1933, George Werner, a jurist and the second in command at the ICRC, took over at the head of the Nansen International Office . During this period, explains Dzonvinar Kévonian, the Committee’s delegates often worked for the League of Nations, especially the refugee service at the International Labour Organisation. This “overlap” compromised the ICRC’s independence and would today be unacceptable , for no one would imagine Jakob Kellenberger to be both the head of the Geneva Committee and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

-Other ICRC presidents were also involved in governmental politics . Carl-Jacob Burckhardt, who took the reins of the Committee on 1 January 1945 , was nominat ed Swiss ambassador to France on 20 February. H is position was highly political , for his country worried about General Charles de Gaulle’s “seditious” connections to communist resistance fighters . True to its legalistic nature, Switzerland had waited until July 1944 before calling the former French ambassador, the writer Paul Morand, back from Berne to Vichy. It recognised the provisional government in Paris the following October. Meanwhile, General Charles de Gaulle delayed accrediting Carl-Jacob Burckhardt until four months after his nomination. To focus on his diplomatic career , the latter then gave up his position at the ICRC and was replaced by his predecessor, Max Huber, who took up the position of honorary president until January 1947. Paul Ruegger, another president of the Committee, was just as controversial. Nominated Swiss ambassador to Rome in 1936 before his dismissal by the fascists in 1942, he played a dubious role in turning away Austrian and German Jewish refugees expelled from Italy in December 1938. Following recommendations from the Swiss Chief of Justice Heinrich Rothmund, Paul Ruegger suggested adding the annotation “NA” (N on-Aryan) to Italian passports to identify and redirect th ese asylum-seekers away from Switzerland.

-From 1945 onwards, the ICRC did stop electing active members of government. However, it continued recruiting former ambassadors or high-ranking civil servants. Successively nominated in 1976, 1987 and 1999, all its presidents had held official positions. The first, Alexandre Hay, had been the Director General of the Swiss national bank; the second, Cornelio Sommaruga, was charged with international economic relations between 1984 and 1986; and the third, Jakob Kellenberger, had been State Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Committee also welcomed former presidents of the Swiss Confederation, like Ernest Nobs from 1952 and Max Petitpierre from 1961: the former was head of state in 1949 and 1950; the latter in 1955 and 1960. Other ICRC members have gone on to careers in the public sector after leaving positions in the organisation. The Committee’s envoy to Biafra, Albert Bachmann, beca me the head of the Swiss secret service in 1974. However, he was forced to resign in 1981 after a parliamentary enquiry into the vagaries of his department.

-Historically, the multiple mandates of some ICRC members have caused obvious conflicts of interest. Gustave Ador, Giuseppe Motta and Philippe Etter, for example, were all simultaneously Committee members and Federal councillors. As for William Rappard, he entered the ICRC in 1917, just when the Swiss government made him a special envoy to the United States; h e also had an official role at the League of Nations between 1920 and 1934. But double mandates were not an issue for the Committee. If William Rappard was forced to resign in 1921, it was because of a disagreement with Gustave Ador over his “betrayal ” in favour of the rival League of Red Cross, where he had accepted the position of Secretary General in 1919-1920. Gustave Ador himself had to temporarily withdraw from the ICRC while heading the Swiss Confederation between June 1917 and February 1920, when he was replaced by Edouard Naville as acting president. However, his government involvement inevitably had an impact on the Committee . Sometimes in a positive way: Gustave Ador , for instance, facilitated agreements between Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire, on the one hand, and France and Germany, on the other, for the repatriation of prisoners of war and civil detainees. Conferences to negotiate these agreements were held in Berne, the first being signed on 29 December 1917 and the second on 26 April 1918. On the negative side, the political activities of Gustave Ador, as Geneva’s representative at the Federal Council, and Edouard Odier, as Berne’s ambassador to Petrograd, meant both wanted to safeguard Swiss neutrality. They  therefore abstained from signing an ICRC communiqué on 18 February 1918 denouncing the use of toxic gases by Germany and the Allies . Clearly, government priorities outweighed those of the Committee. Consequently, Gustave Ador, as head of state, ordered the Bolsheviks to close their diplomatic mission in Berne after they were accused of supporting a general strike. In response, the ICRC delegate to St. Petersburg was expelled in June 1919. In Russia, the Committee found itself playing a consular role, as diplomatic relations between the two countries were broken off and the Swiss legation’s offices were pillaged in October 1919. The ICRC became an unofficial embassy and quickly moved away from its traditional mission focusing on prisoners-of-war. I ts Moscow delegate Voldemar Wehrlin, in particular, was charged with the repatriation of around 7,000 Swiss nationals living in Russia at the time. To do so, he had to update administrative documents, give legal advice, and issue, extend or cancel Swiss passports. Given the situation, the ICRC followed orders from Berne and refused to assist Swiss communists who had entered Russia “at their own risk”. Likewise, it complied with instructions issued by the Federal political department to reduce costs and slow down repatriations during the economic crisis of the 1920s. It even collected and recorded declarations from residents of Swiss origin who renounced their nationality because they had no more ties to the homeland. Only after dekulakisation and the purges initiated by Stalin in the 1930s did the ICRC once again take up its humanitarian activities in favour of all Swiss citizens, regardless of political leanings. This allowed the Committee to negotiate the release and repatriation of those held by the Soviets, rather than their deportation to the gulag.

-The ICRC’s ties to Swiss authorities were confirmed during the interwar period: the authorities even saved the i nstitution from bankruptcy after the 1930s financial crisis. In a country that shunned diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, it came as no surprise that the Committee had little sympathy for Bolshevik revolutionaries.  In 1924, Théodore Aubert, a lawyer who was formerly an ICRC delegate, set up the anti-communist EIA (Entente International Anticommuniste). The organisation enjoyed the support of the president of the Finnish Red Cross, Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim, as well as four active Committee members: Lucien Cramer, Guillaume Favre, Georges Wagnière and Rodolphe de Haller. After the invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, it received funding from Italy , and subsequently advocated an alliance with the fascists to counter the “red peril”. Théodore Aubert was also a member of Georges Oltramare’s Union Nationale, a group close to Benito Mussolini’s supporters. Lucien Cramer, who published a brochure attacking renewed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, was responsible for the organisation’s political agenda, as was Georges Wagnière, the Swiss ambassador to Italy between 1918 and 1936. The Union Nationale was discreetly supported by Georges-Elie Audeoud, Edmond Boissier, Guillaume Favre and Jacques Berthélémy Micheli, all members of the ICRC and the Parti National Démocratique ( which considered merging with Georges Oltramare’s group in 1938 and which belonged to the right-wing coalition in power in the Geneva canton at the time ).

-The ICRC also appeared to be acting under influence during World War Two. As seen above in the chronologi cal section regarding Germany from 1933 onwards, the Swiss government was not without blame in failing to denounce the Holocaust. The Committee even waited for Berne’s approval before sending delegates to concentration camps in 1944. To keep a low profile, the government had already refused the ICRC permission to follow up on British requests to visit Jewish refugees held in Switzerland in 1942. In the same vein, it had attempted to modify a Committee report on abuses suffered by German nationals detained in the Dutch colony of Indonesia , so as to avoid Nazi reprisals when citizens from the Netherlands were being deported to Germany.

-The ICRC could expect certain services from the Federal government in return. This was evident in some win-win exchanges between the Committee and Swiss authorities. The two entities’ joint interests were obvious. Yves Collart quotes Marcel Pilaz-Golaz, the head of Swiss diplomacy, who explained in 1941: “In Berne’s opinion, what is good for the ICRC is good for Switzerland.” During World War Two, the government funded over half of the institution’s total budget. It also exempted the Committee from customs duties, provided staff with diplomatic passports, assisted in transport operations and excused ICRC staff from military duties. With the permission of Edouard de Haller, member of the ICRC from 1940-1941 and Swiss Federal councillor, the organisation obtained boats to transport supplies. Abroad , its delegates could use the diplomatic bag, even if they avoided taking up residence in Swiss embassies. In theory, Swiss diplomats were not called on to fulfil any of the Committee’s humanitarian tasks. In practice, however, the separation of duties was often a mere formality . During the Cold War, again, the institution moved closer to the Swiss government. Attacked by the Communist press , the ICRC was accused of being at Washington’s beck and call. In retaliation, Berne began proceedings against André Bonnard, the president of the local section of the World Peace Council, who, in June 1952, had given his French Communist colleague Frederic Joliot-Curie information on the commercial and industrial activities of members of the Geneva Committee. The ICRC, which had not sued the World Peace Council, was thus considered by the government as a national interest. In March 1954, the Federal Criminal Court eventually sentenced André Bonnard to a short but symbolic suspended sentence of 15 days in prison.

-This did not signal the end of the government’s protection . The Swiss authorities regularly sent envoys to negotiate the release of ICRC representatives like August Lindt during his brief detention by Nigerian authorities in 1969. In return, Berne requested the Committee to prepare diplomatic conferences. Within Switzerland, ICRC employees had limited room to manoeuvre and did not benefit from the diplomatic immunity usually awarded to international organisations based in Geneva. Conflicts of interest also occurred with other states until the institution amended its internal regulations . Only in 1986 were delegations invited to international conferences of the Red Cross finally barred from simultaneously representing a national society and a government. A further seven years were necessary before the Committee signed on 19 March 1993 an agreement with Switzerland so it would be recognised as an international organisation and awarded diplomatic immunity.

-Meanwhile, the CRS ( Croix-Rouge suisse) has even stronger ties to the Swiss government. During World War Two, for instance, the authorities requested it to organise relief operations and supervise around 20 Swiss NGOs. Berne also impose d certain conditions: to appease Berlin, the CRS was ordered to avoid focusing on Nazi victims. Consequently, donations from the American Red Cross were refused because they were earmarked for Jewish refugees in Switzerland. Instead, e fforts concentrated on children. Between 1942 and 1947, the CRS ran a programme that aim ed to provide relief to minors in Nazi-occupied Europe. It focused on neighbouring countries so that Jewish people would not need to cross the Swiss border to be assisted. The initiative came from Edouard de Haller, a future minister and member of the Geneva Committee. Withi n Switzerland, activities focused on illegal immigrants, and succeeded in placing 180,000 of them in temporary host families. In France, however, the programme had to apply the anti-Semitic laws of the Vichy regime. As a result, t he CRS fire d Rösli Naef (1911-1996), a nurse, and force d Anne-Marie Imhof-Piguet (1916-), a delegate, to resign after they attempted to smuggle the children of deported Jews across the Swiss border in December 1942. The women had previously assisted the children in La Hille in the Pyrenees before a police raid led to their internment in a camp in Vernet in August 1942. According to an internal memorandum dated 8 February 1943 and quoted by Gérard Delaloye, collaborators of the Swiss Red Cross we re requested to maintain “strict political, religious and ideological neutrality. The French government’s laws and decrees must be executed to the letter, whether or not they are in accordance with your own convictions. […] The French government has entrusted us with a relief mission for children. The mission will only succeed if we prove ourselves trustworthy and avoid compromising it with reckless actions. If, in the future, you feel the situation is such that you are unable to carry out your duties, we ask you to resign rather than continue working and thus jeopardise the reputation of Switzerland and the Red Cross.”

-The proximity between the CRS and its government is not only due to the exceptional circumstances created by World War Two. It also has structural origins. This is evident in the political career of several of the organisation’s presidents : Kurt Bollinger (1982-1988), a squadron leader in the Swiss Air Force between 1973 and 1980; Karl Kennel (1988-1996), a Conservative deputy for Lucerne between 1963 and 1971 and a Federal state councillor for the Christian Democrats between 1971 and 1987; Franz Muheim ( 1997- 2000), a Swiss ambassador to London between 1989 and 1994; René Rhinow ( since 2001), a law professor who chaired the Swiss Upper House (Council of States) in 1999. Institutionally speaking, the CRS plays an auxiliary role for public authorities and often has a representative on the ICRC board. From 1981 onwards, it was charged with running an office assisting in the deportation of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers . Cantonal CRS chapters we re involved in around 25% of all expulsions organised by Swiss authorities.  According to the journalist Pierre Hazan, this had implications for the institution’s medical centres in registration offices for asylum seekers. Because it d epended on government funding, the CRS refuse d to treat patients who we re suspected of pretending to be sick. In the same vein, it did not comment on the repressive nature of the Federal Office for Refugees (ODR) under the aegis of an ad hoc umbrella, OSAR (Office suisse d’aide aux réfugiés ), which groups governmental agencies and NGOs.

-The ICRC is no exception: o ther national societies have been accused of being too close to political powers. Funded by the Ministry of the Interior, the CRF (Croix-Rouge française), reports for example Anne de Loisy, deters journalists from investigating bad treatment and police violence in the airport centres where it assists detained asylum seekers. The CRI (Croce Rossa Italiana) is not better: in 2009, it accepted to identify, register, and control Gypsy illegal immigrants to be deported. Generally speaking, Red Crosses and Red Crescents are close to state structures because they are considered as public auxiliaries . Abroad, notes Ian McAllister, “aid follows the flag, i.e. national societies rather tamely follow the regional priorities of their own government”. The Dutch Red Cross, for instance, uses its own sources of funding for running programmes in the Netherlands, but is entirely dependent on the government for international activities. National societies can also play a role in initiating dialogue with the enemy . In July 1958, Washington, which had no direct diplomatic relations with East Berlin, used the ARC (American Red Cross) to negotiate the release of nine American soldiers c aught during a storm and forced to land with their helicopter in the People’s Democratic Republic of Germany a month earlier. In addition to their activities in the fields of health, immigration or diplomacy, national societies help to maintain law and order at home . In the Arab world, Red Crescents are used by authoritarian regimes to counter the influence of Islamic NGOs by supervising charities . In exchange, they enjoy certain privileges. In Syria, they have an exclusive right to raise funds from members of the public. I n Abu Dhabi and Jordan, they are given permission to collect donations in schools as all pupils are automatically considered as members of the Red Crescent.

-Obviously, the docility of national societies depends on the circumstances and the regime in place. The British Red Cross, writes John Hutchinson, was receptive to government requests in the 1920s and turned down an Italian invitation to form an International Relief Union for victims of natural disasters, fearing a fascist initiative. According to Jonathan Benthall, ties were reinforced during the Gulf Crisis of 1991, when the organisation launched an important fundraising campaign to support Kurds at the request of Jeffrey Archer, a former Conservative deputy. However, Geoffrey Best considers the British Red Cross is less close to the authorities than its American counterpart, especially given its lack of influence over the government’s humanitarian policies . This is visible in London’s delay in approv ing the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the additional protocols of 1977, respectively ratified in 1957 and 1998. The United Kingdom feared that the development of international humanitarian law would prevent it from using nuclear weapons, compromise its relationship with the United States, cause conflict amongst NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) members, and create difficulties for its troops based in Ireland, South Yemen and Malaysia, where England was accused of mistreating local populations and refusing to allow detainees prisoner-of-war status. Actually, the British authorities only took part in drafting the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to avoid being alienated by other states and to preserve the ICRC’s neutrality, threatened by Soviet and Swedish reform projects.

-In this regard, Red Cross societies in Western democracies are also dependent on election results. The CRF ( Croix-Rouge français) is one such example. During the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the organisation had its headquarters at the Elysian Palace, where the French president now lives, but tried to remain independent from the military. According to Grégoire Wyrouboff, this was not necessarily a good choice, as the German Red Cross was much more efficient in medical terms thanks to its integration with the Army at the beginning of the conflict. Headed by aristocrats, t he future CRF was antagonised by anticlerical executives of the Third Republic. Nationalised during the two world wars, it was also at the mercy of the governments of the Fourth and Fifth Republics. After the Socialists took power in May 1981, President François Mitterrand named a supporter, Georgina Dufoix, to the head of the Red Cross in April 1989. This political manoeuvring was strongly criticised by the press. Georgina Dufoix was nevertheless obliged to resign when the CRF became involved in a scandal involving the evacuation of a Palestinian terrorist, Georges Habache, from Tunis, for treatment in a Paris hospital in January 1992 . When the Conservatives returned to power, President Jacques Chirac put Marc Gentilini, a professor of medicine and a member of his party (the Rassemblement pour la République ), at the head of the organisation in May 1997. A deputy for both the Mayor of Bris -sous-Forges and the Member of Parliament Pierre-André Wiltzer, who was to become Minister of Development Cooperation, Marc Gentilini had close links to Africa . In 1988, he launched an NGO to fight AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), OPALS ( Organisation panafricaine de lutte contre le sida) . S upported by Edith Bongo, the wife of the Gabonese president, and funded by a branch of the oil company Total in Libreville, this organisation was part of the CRF between 1998 and 2006. After completing two mandates, Marc Gentilini was eventually replaced in December 2004 by Jean-François Mattéi, another Conservative politician who was Minister of Health under Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s government between May 2002 and March 2004.

-In this respect, Red Cross societies have been used as both political springboards and retirement opportunities. In France, once again, the organisation helped to “recycle” ministers that had fallen out of favour: Georgina Dufoix after the contaminated blood scandal in 1988, and Jean-François Mattéi after the heat wave deaths of summer 2003. As for Nigeria, its Red Cross co-opted as president Rochas Okorocha, who had just lost the presidential primaries of the ruling People’s Democratic Party in 2007, and who joined the opposition to contest regional elections in Imo State in 2011. In Norway, the Red Cross was also used as an honourable retirement option for former members of government. Its presidents from 1993 and 1998 onwards were respectively Astrid Nøklebye Heiberg, a Conservative deputy and Minister for Administration in 1986, and Thorvald Stoltenberg, a Labour Minister of Defence in 1979- 1981 and Foreign Affairs in 1987-1989 and 1990-1993. Thorvald Stoltenberg went on to be nominated the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1990, and a Special Representative to the former Yugoslavia in 1993. Alternately, the NRK (Norges Røde Kors) has served as a political springboard for its directors, especially its secretary-generals in 2001-2003 and 2003-2005, both Labour: Jan Egeland, who began his career as a diplomat between 1990 and 1997, was promoted head of the Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs at the United Nations from 2003 to 2006; Jonas Gahr Støre, who was an adviser under the government of Jens Stoltenberg from 2000 to 2001, was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2009.

8) Links to the military
-As national societies are sometimes run by high-ranking officers or defence ministers, the Red Cross movement has close ties to security forces. This is especially true for the ICRC, which regularly intervenes in battlefields and organises training sessions to promote international humanitarian law amongst soldiers and policemen. The institution mainly interacts with the armed forces on two levels: during relief operations, to secure its teams, and in the legal domain, to limit the casualties of war s .

-Geneva’s position has evolved over time. Initially, the Committee was not against military supervision because it was not operational and had to rely on national societies which were usually integrated with armed forces. As seen in the chronology above, prior to World War One, Red Crosses were often controlled by senior officers . Many were even created and directed by security services. In Romania, for example, the Red Cross was set up in 1876 by an Inspector-General of the Armed Forces, Carol Davila (1828-1884), of French origin, and led by Prince Demetrius Ghika (1816-1897), the Chief of Police for Bucharest. In some national societies, however, military control led to internal conflict with medical and civilian personnel. In Belgium, for instance, the Red Cross was presided between 1874 and 1879 by Bruno-Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Renard, a General and Minister of War from 1868 to 1870. But a Doctor, Antoine Depage, became increasingly hostile to the Army’s hold over the organisation, which he headed from 1914 onwards. In 1907, he founded the country’s first nursing school, and, in 1912, bypassed the military when providing relief to wounded soldiers in the Balkans conflict. During World War One, his uniform was untidy, he disrespected the hierarchy and he disputed army rules and regulations, in particular when petrol rationing threatened the running of his ambulances.

-Despite their reputation for neutrality, national societies in Northern Europe were also militarised. In Denmark, the Red Cross was initially presided between 1876 and 1887 by Christian Albert Frederich Thomsen (1827-1896), Minister of War from 1873 to 1874. In Sweden, it was run by a General, Axel Gabriel Leijonhufvud, from 1873 onwards . In November 1945, leadership passed to another officer in the Army, the infamous Count Folke Bernadotte (1895-1948) . Born to a father who had been forced to give up the Swedish crown after marrying a commoner, the Count had attempted to organise a volunteer force to assist Finland, attacked by the Soviets in November 1939. As he was in the United States at the time of the invasion, he began fundraising to purchase aeroplanes and train pilots for the Finnish Air Force. While no official support was forthcoming from Washington, Winston Churchill provided British aircraft and set up an air force base in Canada. The project eventually failed when Helsinki signed a peace agreement with Moscow in March 1940. But i n Finland, the president of the Red Cross, Field Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim (1867-1951), was to become a hero in the fight against the Soviet invasion, and head of state from 1944 to 1946.

-Because it depended on national societies to carry out field operations, the ICRC was not able to put a stop to the increasing influence of military circles. Despite the Geneva Conventions, for example, it was unable to prevent the American and Australian Red Crosses from providing relief to able-bodied solders, in addition to the war-wounded. A branch of the BRCS (British Red Cross Society), the Australian Red Cross was actually set up to support the Army. It was launched in Melbourne by Helen Munro-Ferguson, the Governor General’s wife, on 13 August 1914, just nine days after England declared war against Germany. Following World War Two, the ICRC remained dependent on national societies and their military ties to access hard-to-reach areas. It used British military aircraft to send relief to Yogyakarta during Indonesia’s war of independence in September 1947. Similarly, the ARC (American Red Cross) had transported supplies in US military airplanes to assist the survivors of an earthquake in Chile in January 1939. So did the League of Red Cross when sending relief to the victims of floods in India and Pakistan in September 1955.

-Another example of this trend was during the Korean War in 1950 and 1951. The ICRC was refused access to the north by the Communists, and completely depended on foreign troops for operations in the south. As Washington had requested humanitarian staff to wear A rmy uniforms, the Geneva Committee supplied their own in the hope of distinguishing its personnel from American soldiers. Operating out of Tokyo, t he League of the Red Cross was also forced to give up its emblem in favour of that of the United Nations to gain access to South Korea. The United States, which provided the majority of the troops , kept strict control over relief programmes. Supplies had to be pooled, sold to civilians, distributed by the Seoul government or, for some 10%, handed over to the South Korean Red Cross. The League of Red Cross was not given authorisation to run programmes until May 1951, and national societies were mostly concerned with providing relief to their own military contingents, especially t he ARC (American Red Cross), which was indistinguishable from the US Army and which lost two volunteers during the conflict. Only the Scandinavian societies focused their efforts on civilian populations. But they were still subject to strict military control. For instance, the crew of a Danish hospital s hip, the Jutlandia, was asked to respect a blackout whenever the Blue Helmets went into combat. Compromise was necessary before a solution could be found. To allow the ship to display a lighted Red Cross logo as per the Geneva Conventions, the crew finally agreed to sail out to sea and respect the official secrets it had knowledge of whenever the American Army was planning an attack.

-Since then , the ICRC’s operational capacities have grown in scale and the organisation is no longer completely dependent on military logistics. However, it still occasionally works with the armed forces. When conflict broke out in N’djamena in March 1980, for example, it evacuated the seriously wounded to a h ospital run by a French Army medical team in Kousseri, Cameroon. National societies do the same with their own military. According to Steve Pratt, the Danish Red Cross took on members of the special forces to assist in relief operations for Rwandan refugees and displaced Congolese persons in Goma in 1996. Likewise, the Canadian Red Cross worked with the Department of National Defence in 1999 to accommodate 5,000 refugees from Kosovo, a military Operation called Parasol . Around the same time, London requested the British Red Cross to act as a go-between between the government and humanitarian NGOs to facilitate civilian - military cooperation during peace-keeping operations.

-The ICRC’s relations with armed forces are not only logistical in nature. In addition to using military resources to transport supplies or treat the wounded, the Committee also tries to secure its humanitarian operations and s taff in dangerous environments. According to Barthold Bierens de Haan, a psychologist responsible for expatriates, the annual death rate of ICRC employees varied between 1% and 2% in the 1990s, a higher proportion than in other at-risk professions , like firemen or policemen . This situation is mostly because more delegates are being sent to war zones, and not necessarily because warring factions have less respect for international humanitarian law. Nevertheless, political and criminal violence is a problem for many staff in the field, especially the employees of national societies. Armed robbery, for instance, is as much to blame as war, as seen in various examples exposed in the chronological section above. Unsolved murders include those of Catherine Duclaux, a French IFRC delegate stabbed to death by bandits in Yaoundé on 27 May 2001, and John Maurice Scott, director-general of the Fijian Red Cross, found dead next to his homosexual partner at home in Suva on 1 July 2002.

-In order to continue operating in dangerous environments, t he ICRC had to choose between providing staff with arms, hiring private security companies, negotiating protection agreements with guerrilla forces or organizing military escorts. The first solution was not aberrant for an organisation based in Switzerland, a country where conscripted citizens keep their weapons at home. Gustave Ador, head of the ICRC, even presided the gun society of his village, Cologny, while another member of the Committee, Pierre Boissier, was killed during a military training exercise. Moreover, the Geneva Convention of 1929 authorized humanitarian personnel to bear weapons for self-defence. Hence doctors of the Swedish and British Red Crosses carried their own guns during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936. And in Congo at the end of 1960, it was the Geneva Committee who requested Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu to provide a military escort to its delegate, Geoffrey Senn, in order to transport relief from Luluabourg to Bakwanga. Nevertheless, arming staff is obviously in contradiction with the ICRC’s neutral stance. Consequently, at the 26th International Red Cross Conference in December 1995, the movement voted to prohibit relief workers from carrying arms or working with military escorts. At a special meeting of all its delegates in Geneva in 1997, the ICRC announced a new security policy based on keeping a low profile. Visibility would be reduced by employ ing more local staff, renting used vehicles, and not show ing the Red Cross logo, in particular in Muslim countries where this could be seen as offensive . In addition, the ICRC hired a full-time consultant to develop security guidelines published in 1999 and 2005: David Lloyd Roberts, a former British soldier, held this position from 1993 to 2003.

-Nevertheless, the Committee sometimes contracted with armed guards and private security companies. In 1968, it hired Securitas to evacuate Europeans in Katanga. After the tragedies of Somalia in 1991 and Chechnya in 1996, resorting to contractors became more common. Al Venter, for example, mentions the case of Sierra Leone in the early 1990s. ICRC’s envoy, Primo Corvaro, initially refused to send supplies using helicopters owned by Executive Outcomes, a South African company known for employing mercenaries. However, he did accept to care for the wounded that Executive Outcomes transported from rural areas to the capital city. Later on, he used helicopters provided free of charge by an American competitor, ICI (International Charter Incorporated). The ICRC also contracted with DSL (Defence Systems Limited), part of the Armor Group, and the Sierra Leone branch of Sandline, linked to the South Africans of Executive Outcomes. In October 2007, the Geneva Committee eventually produced guidelines on hiring security firms. National societies followed the same trend. In Iraq, the Kuwaiti Red Crescent hired a small company, the Crescent Security Group, where five guards (one Austrian, Bert Nussbaumer, and four Americans, Paul Christopher Johnson-Reuben, Joshua Mark Munns, John Young and Jon Cote) were kidnapped and probably killed after escorting a humanitarian convoy near Basra in November 2006. As for the American Red Cross, it organised in November 2005 a charity gala with Blackwater, the infamous military contractor involved in several massacres in Iraq, especially in Al Najaf in April 2004 or Baghdad in February 2005. To work with private security firms, however, is still controversial, as it potentially contradicts Article 47 of the first additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits mercenaries.

-Generally speaking, the ICRC is against the use of force for humanitarian purposes. It considers that being escorted by the Blue Helmets presents a risk for its neutrality, as UN (United Nations) troops are part of a political organisation. Consequently, the Geneva Committee has declined offers of military protection during peacekeeping operations . When the UN security guide for humanitarian NGOs was revised in November 2006, for instance, the ICRC and the IFRC managed to have all mention of the Red Cross Movement deleted. In any case, most peacekeeping operations do not aim at supporting relief programmes. UN troops, explains Meinrad Studer, are usually more concerned with maintaining order and providing access to victims than protecting humanitarian staff. As evidence of this trend, Abby Stoddard mentions a meeting on 17 May 1994 between the American Under-Secretary of State, Tim Wirth, and the ICRC operations director, Jean de Courten . During discussions, the latter requested that UN troops be sent to Bosnia to protect civilians, not to facilitate the distribution of supplies. ICRC staff in Sarajevo also refused military escorts and only accepted assistance from the UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) in transporting prisoners.

-The Committee’s refusal of UN assistance is based on fears that it would compromise its neutrality, hence its security in the eyes of local warring factions . However, the ICRC has not always been so wary of intergovernmental organisations. Gustave Ador, its president, even held an official role at the League of Nations when fighting the Russian famine in 1921 and repatriating refugees from World War One. National societies have also played key roles in launching peacekeeping operations. General Armas-Eino Martola, president of the Finnish Red Cross, even took charge of UN troops in Cyprus between 1966 and 1969. In some situations, the ICRC has condoned the use of force to protect victims. In 1991, for instance, it requested a specialised group in the Thai army, the DPPU (Displaced Persons Protection Unit), to keep order in Khmer refugee camps.

-The situation is paradoxical: on the one hand, the ICRC does not encourage the use of force to save lives; on the other, it is not a pacifist organisation. The Geneva Conventions can therefore be interpreted in different ways. T hey can be read as justifying acts of war, and not only as a means of limiting their humanitarian impact . Henry Shue, for instance, criticizes the first additional protocol of 1977 and Article 52(2), which authorizes attacks on vaguely defined “military objectives” as long as their destruction, capture or neutralization “offers a definite military advantage”. This ambiguity blurs the underlying message of the Geneva Conventions, which focuses on distinguishing civilians from combattants. The contradiction is particularly obvious in Article 52(2), which allows attacks on “objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action.” Thus defined, objectives could include humanitarian supplies for warring factions. Henry Shue therefore proposes a more limited definition of the term, which forbids attacks on all infrastructure necessary for the population’s survival. Interpretation would need to be adjusted on a case-by-case basis: residents of underdeveloped countries, for example, are less dependent on public services. As in Afghanistan in 2001, t hey may be less affected by the bombing of power plants supplying energy to both hospitals and military barracks, unlike Serbia in 1999 or Iraq in 2003 .

-Strictly speaking, the ICRC does not condemn war. It seeks to make it more humane. Its position has long been criticized. W hen Henry Dunant was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, he was attacked for only being active in the humanitarian field, and not opposing war, unlike his co-winner Frédéric Passy, who was so sure of being nominated that he did not even need to campaign to have his candidacy accepted. According to the pacifist Baroness Bertha Sophie Felicitas Freifrau von Suttner (1843-1914) who herself received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905, Henry Dunant perfected the art of war and his award contradicted the last wishes of Alfred Nobel. As time went on, the ICRC did not modify its position. In its rare statements on the subject, the Geneva Committee limited itself to denouncing the humanitarian consequences of military actions, rather than their causes. During the Cold War, for instance, it did not reiterate comments made by the League of Red Cross condemning armed conflict and promoting peace through education, the disarmament of mentalities, solidarity, mutual understanding, the fight against racism, international humanitarian law and efforts to help those in need. At the time, Geneva was wary of any initiatives that would play into the hands of the Soviet Union, given the arms race with the United States. Its involvement in the action plan drafted at the W orld Red Cross Peace Conference from 11 to 13 July 1973 in Belgrade was therefore peripheral. Likewise, it kept its distance from statements made by the movement during the first Gulf Crisis. In a press release published on 23 October 1990, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Standing Commission initially encouraged all parties to work together to find a peaceful solution. In a memorandum dated 14 December 1990, the ICRC also expressed its hope that the crisis would be resolved by peaceful means. However, to avoid compromising its neutrality and irritating the United States, it never openly criticized American plans to attack Saddam Hussein’s regime. According to Geneva, calls for peace would have amounted to tacit approval of the invasion of Kuwait and its annexing as the 19th province of Iraq. In the end, the ICRC’s position on the matter was much more complex than those adopted by national societies – who had no qualms in criticizing the United States . The second Gulf Crisis led to a similar situation. Geneva’s statements were often more balanced than those of national societies which had preemptively condemned the American military intervention in Iraq. The French Red Cross, for example, called for a peaceful solution in the Quotidien du médecin newspaper on 7 March 2003.

-Nevertheless, the ICRC does participate in peace education programmes. Since the end of the Cold War, i t also claims to be involved in conflict prevention, for instance in rural parts of Kenya’s Turkana Province from 2004 onwards. According to Nicholas Berry, the Committee actually attempts to discredit war by making it impossible to launch military actions without violating international humanitarian law. Under the pretext of facilitating negotiations for peace , the institution engages in a covert diplomacy that contradicts its apolitical and unbiased stance. As a consequence, the ICRC operates on several levels at once: it encourages mediation, it acts as a watchdog for human rights violations, it encourages the trials of war criminal s, it lobbies governments or the United Nations to intervene against warring factions, and it isolates armed groups by sending supplies and reinforcements to civilians. Last but not least , explains Nicholas Berry, the Committee tends to demobilize combatants by inciting warring parties to become closer and to talk to each other in order to reduce the likelihood of massacres . In promoting stricter rules of engagement, the ICRC eventually deters military operations. Its intervention in conflicts means the Committee could potentially have a pacifist role in two areas. Firstly, it neutralises zones to prevent the entry of armed forces. Secondly, it works towards agreements to ban weapons. Regarding neutralisation , for instance, the ICRC negotiated a humanitarian truce which eventually ended up the fighting in the Dominican Republic in 1965. If it could not rival the United Nations, which secured whole regions in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991 and Bosnia in 1993, the Committee did manage to neutralise parts of Madrid in 1936 and Shanghai in 1937; hotels in Jerusalem in 1948, Dhaka in 1971, Nicosia in 1974 and Phnom Penh in 1975; hospitals in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1971, Ndjamena (Chad) in 1980, Sidon (Lebanon) in 1985, Jaffna (Sri Lanka) in 1990 and Osijek (Croatia) in 1992; a beach in Tyr (Lebanon) in 1982; a valley at El Serr-Beni in Yemen in 1964 ; cathedrals in Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands in 1982 and San Cristobal de Las Casas in Mexico in 1994; a monastery in Dubrovnik in 1991; a convent in Jerusalem in 1948; an airport in Managua in 1979; schools in Monrovia in 1990; and colleges in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1971 and Tripoli (Lebanon) in 1983. These operations have sometimes been implemented without written consent from government authorities, like in Nicosia in 1974, or with permission from only one of the warring parties, like Pakistan and not India in Dhaka in 1971 . In any case, ICRC neutralisation projects would collapse without the tacit approval of at least one of the belligerents, as in Saigon and Phnom Penh after the communists took power in 1975.

-The ICRC also plays a key role in having certain categories of weapons banned, another regulation which deters military operations. According to Catherine Rey-Schyrr, the Committee is not out to “draw up a list of authorised and non-authorised weapons”. Instead, its activities in this area focus on promoting humanitarian principles to safeguard civilians. Its position evolved over time. After World War One, for instance, public opinion supported the complete disarmament of major powers, so the ICRC could concentrate on eliminating toxic gases. As a result, the Committee encouraged states to adopt a protocol on bacteriological and chemical weapons in Geneva in 1925. During a disarmament conference at the League of Nations in 1932, it even went so far as to propose that air raids and bacteriological and chemical weapons be prohibited. After World War Two, its focus shifted to atomic bombs, given their devastating effects on civilian populations and incompatibility with humanitarian principles. Launched in April 1950, its initiative to abolish nuclear weapons was quickly supported by Poland and widely promoted at the 19th International Conference of the Red Cross in New Delhi in 1957. Fearing another world war, national societies in Western Europe also joined . In an article published by Le Figaro newspaper during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, André François-Poncet, the president of the French Red Cross, recommended a fifth Geneva Convention be adopted to ban nuclear weapons . However, the ICRC never participated in strategic negotiations on the issue between the major world powers. Between 1978 and 1980, it merely took part in a United Nations conference on “conventional” weapons that were excessively injurious or had indiscriminate effects. Discussions targeted explosives and antipersonnel mines with risks for civilians, as well as light weapons . At the end, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons was adopted in New York on 10 October 1980 and ratified on 2 December 1983. However, it was not until February 1994 that the ICRC officially took a stand advocating the elimination of antipersonnel mines. Since then , it has been involved in mine clearing operations in Angola and Afghanistan. In the same vein, it has attempted to re-launch the April 1972 convention on bacteriological and chemical weapons. In September 2002, it warned against the dangers of biotechnological warfare.

9) Links to economic circles
-The ICRC also has links to economic powers , as its programmes inevitably interact with private companies. In an article published in 2001, general manager Paul Grossrieder stressed that humanitarian organisations’ ties to business should not be limited to commercial transactions with suppliers or sponsors. Since 1999, for instance, the Committee has attempted to encourage codes of conduct for multinational companies involved in armed conflicts . In addition to promoting international humanitarian law , the institution supports the resumption of commerce, the reconstruction of infrastructure, the development of transport and the free circulation of aid in war torn areas. While it rarely condemns economic sanctions openly, the Committee disapproves of their application in situations where this would have adverse effects on civilians. After Kuwait was liberated in 1991, for example, the ICRC questioned the necessity of an embargo that had initially been put in place to force Iraq out of the occupied territories. According to Christophe Girod, it would have been better to lift sanctions after the cease-fire was declared, even if this meant imposing them again at a later date when and if Saddam Hussein’s regime failed to respect its obligations.

-The Committee was itself a product of Geneva’s business and financial community. Its members included several important manufacturers and investors, descendants of the city’s protestant banking dynasties. While Henry Dunant’s business was a failure, his successors, Gustave Moynier and Gustave Ador, were much more fortunate. On his father’s death in 1881 , Gustave Ador, in particular, inherited shares in the French and Swiss energy and transports sectors , including in PLM (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée) railways and the Geneva gas industry company (C ompagnie genevoise pour l’industrie du gaz), which had subsidiaries in Naples and Marseille . Sometimes, m embers even had common interests. Guillaume-Henri Dufour, for instance, headed the board of directors of the Geneva company for gas lighting (Société genevoise pour l’éclairage au gaz) between 1848 and 1875. He was followed by Gustave Ador, who joined the company i n 1881 and directed it from 1891 until its liquidation in 1895, due to increased competition from electricity . Given their ties to business, the ICRC’s first leaders also developed an economic rationale to justify humanitarian activities. In their book on war and charity , Louis Appia and Gustave Moynier reasoned that it was less expensive to treat the war wounded than to train new recruits.

-The ICRC is not the only humanitarian organisation to have ties to the business world. Within the movement itself, national societies have also worked closely with this sector. The American Red Cross, for instance, has often been led by businessmen like: Henry Davison, a banker in the John Pierpont Morgan group, from 1917 to 1919; Roland Harriman, a railroad executive, from 1950 to 1953; Norman Davis, a property developer in Cuba, from 1938 to 1944; Ellsworth Bunker, who inherited a fortune made in the sugar industry, from 1954 to 1956; Frank Stanton, a broadcasting executive, from 1973 to 1979; Richard Schubert, the director of a law firm, from 1983 to 1989; George Moody, a Californian investor, from 1985 to 1992; David McLaughlin, a director of ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Company) petrol company, from 2001 to 2004; Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, the founder of an advertising agency (Pace Communications) from 2004; and Mark Everson, an auditor at Arthur Andersen, from 2007 onwards.

-Inevitably, these ties have led to conflicts of interest, especially in national societies. Rebecca Gill gives the example of the British Red Cross’ predecessor, which, a fter the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, invested its surplus in a weapons manufacture, Vickers Son & Maxim.
In 1917 , the leader of the “war council” at the American Red Cross (ARC) , Henry Davison, supported lending to France and Great Britain when these loans benefit ed his bank, John Pierpont Morgan. Later on, t he non-profit organisation was also called to account over commercial rivalries and unfair competition. In 2007 , it was sued in New York by a pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, for renting its logo to traders in sanitary products . T he plaintiff had exclusive rights to sell medicine carrying the red cross symbol since 1887: o nly in 1905 was a law passed fixing the ARC’s monopoly over the emblem for purely humanitarian purposes and confirming previous exemptions. As for the British Red Cross, it used its status as a charity to circumvent economic regulations . During World War Two, mentions Dermot Morrah, it got around the authorities’ food rationing and price controls by selling donated goods for profit, including jewellery, cigars and vintage wines. With the support of churches, schools, colonial lobbies and trade unions, which accepted automatic deductions from workers’ salaries, the organisation was able to collect tax-free donations from members of the public until June 1945 . During this period, the British Red Cross accumulated £64.4 million, compared to £19.9 million during World War One…

-The ICRC also suffered from conflicts of interest . During World War Two, for instance , its Central Tracing Agency (CTA) established identification files for missing persons using perforated cards and electromagnetic Hollerith machines donated by IBM (International Business Machine Corporation). As o ne of the few American companies that continued to do business with Nazi Germany , IBM had helped build the information system necessary to register… and eliminate Jewish populations. Another example is in the ICRC’s purchasing policies, which have been influenced by its sponsors. Thus f unds provided by the Empress Shoken Kotaigo were used to buy Japanese vehicles . Likewise, t he Committee assisted the Swiss dairy industry in getting rid of excess products, and sent two tons of melted cheese to Taiz Hospital in North Yemen in November 1970.

-Since then, t he ICRC introduced ethical guidelines to regulate relationships with suppliers and fund ers . According to its president Cornelio Sommaruga as quoted by journalist Massimo Lorenzi in 1998, Committee members can no longer hold executive positions in companies that are likely to contradict the Geneva Conventions. “Imagine if a Committee member was on the board of a firm producing weapons , he said!” H is comment wa s particularly relevant when examining the past of Cornelio Sommaruga’s predecessor, Max Huber. Max Huber was first attacked by the Swiss communist press in July 1936, because his firm’s subsidiary in Venetia, the SAVA (Società Alluminio Veneto Anonima), was producing aluminium and trading with the defence industry in Italy as the fascists invaded Ethiopia. From 1929 onwards, Max Huber also directed his father’s metallurgical company, Alusuisse & Oerlikon, which manufactur ed weapons for Nazi Germany during World War Two. When conflict broke out in 1939, Max Huber decided to donate his salary to the ICRC, but did not resign from his position. Meanwhile, his company’s factory in Singen, Germany, violated the Geneva Conventions by using OST (Ostarbeiter) labour provided by deported persons and Soviet prisoners of war captured after 1941 . From an ethical point of view, Max Huber’s position was much more shocking than Norman Augustine’s, an engineer who took the reins of the American Red Cross between 1992 and 2001 after retiring from the aeronautical weapons industry, where he worked for Douglas Aircraft, LTV (Ling-Temco-Vought) and Lockheed Martin.

-The ICRC’s penchant for secrecy means it is difficult to know where things stand today. Its internal code of conduct has not been published . H owever, it appears that it refuses donations from arms dealers, tobacco companies, alcohol manufacturers and the pornography industry . As far as extractive industries are concerned, the ICRC has sometimes accepted logistical support from companies such as Elf, which provided trucks during the war in Congo-Brazzaville in 1999, and the Gécamines, which transported food supplies in Congo-Kinshasa in 1978. Nevertheless, the Committee has avoided working with overly controversial firms like Nestlé, which was criticised by British and German NGOs in 1974 for producing harmful milk powder for babies in underdeveloped countries. Reflecting the movement’s underlying coordination and synchronisation problems, the IFRC and national societies have not adopted the same ethical standards as the ICRC. Consequently, the Federation has received grants from Nestlé, and national societies have developed their own fundraising criteria, which differ to those of Geneva. Regarding the defence industry, many Red Crosses have logistical – and sometimes financial – support from their national army. Despite IFRC directives to the contrary, others have speculated on companies that harm the environment, present a risk for public health or raise ethical dilemmas. The Russian Red Cross, for instance, was presided by the then President Vladimir P utin’s wife when it bought 20% of the shares in a petrol holding in 2004. As for the Philippines National Red Cross, it received donations from Shell, Chevron, Total, Caltex and Unocal (Union Oil Company of California). Strangely enough, it has even accepted funding from industries that are incompatible with public health objectives, like Philip Morris and the Compania General de Tabacos.

10) Institutional learning
-With its extensive experience in armed conflicts, the ICRC’s aptitude for analysis is far better than the vast majority of NGOs. A number of its leaders have pursued high level academic careers and have been involved in the creation of some of the key research centres that currently exist in Switzerland. One example is William Rappard, an ICRC member from 1917 to 1921, who founded the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva in 1927. Jacques Freymond, a history professor and vice-president of the Committee between 1965 and 1971, then took over the reins and helped launch research centres specialised o n Africa, Asia and Europe. With the IFRC and the Swiss Red Cross , the ICRC also established its own research department in Geneva in 1965, the Henry Dunant Institute, which offered training on international humanitarian law . Restructured in 1998, this institute became independent of the Committee to facilitate its involvement in political mediation and conflict-prevention. The following year, it re-formed as a foundation, “The Henry-Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue”, and started to build partnerships with international organisations, governments, the private sector and associations representing victims.

-Thanks to these analytical capabilities and its past experiences, the ICRC enjoys excellent credibility. To date, no factual errors have been found in its annual reports, unlike Amnesty International, which published incorrect information on Kuwait in 1990. Moreover, the institution has developed much more coherent and detailed strategies than NGOs like Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) ,  which tend to react on a case by case basis. Further to an extensive evaluation carried out in 1996 on the impact of humanitarian organisations during the African Great Lakes crisis, the ICRC ended up becoming more involved in collective discussions on the quality of operations. Since then, it has participated in a forum set up in London in 1997, ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action) . From 1999, it also introduced compulsory performance reviews.

-The ICRC has occasionally opened itself up to the critical scrutiny of external evaluations, such as Donald Tansley's investigation in 1975 or the Avenir studies of 1982-1984 and 1996-2002. Results varied. Donald Tansley was the former V ice-President of CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) and the first person to be entrusted with a complete evaluation of national societies, the League of Red Cross and the Geneva Committee. Carried out between February 1973 and June 1975, his investigation underlined several important trends, including the movement’s isolation, its coordination problems, its complacency with regard to the authorities, the financial weight of its administrative structures, the collusion of national societies with their respective governments, the LRC's heavy and stagnant bureaucracy, the self-satisfaction and elitism of the ICRC, its excessive deference to local powers, and , finally, its failure to review its humanitarian programmes. In addition to the Geneva Committee, the League of Red Cross also funded occasional evaluations of its operations. In June 1986, for instance, Robert Chambers, a specialist from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, was given the task of reviewing programmes targeting victims of the drought in the Sahel. Even if the League saved lives and was as efficient as other humanitarian agencies in the field, h is report identified several problems: amateurism, improvisation, empiricism, lack of planning, and untrained expatriates. He also highlighted a more general trend, that is, the poor institutional learning of an organisation with sixty years of experience . Afterwards, the ICRC requested a complete assessment of its activities as part of the Avenir study. Research was carried out in 2002 by Jean-Pierre Wolf, a consultant from Zurich, and Wolf-Dieter Eberwein, Hugo Slim and Boris Maver from the Universities of Berlin, Oxford and Geneva respectively. They underlined the need to encourage dialogue, build on international humanitarian law , diversify the sources of funding, improve recruitment , reinforce the follow-up of assessments and improve means to measure efficiency and access to victims. Today, the ICRC regularly requests independent reviews of its programmes, about a half dozen every year. Funders commission their own investigations. The British DfID (Department for International Development), for example, evaluated the Geneva Committee for the period 1999-2002 under the supervision of a London-based consultant, Peter Wiles.

-Nevertheless, it must be asked whether such exercises are mere formalities. Do they actually contribute to discussion or allow the organisation to build on experience? The Committee's use of reviews is very recent and the reports are seldom published. Morris Davis had already observed this about the Biafra War, when the ICRC refused to release an audit produced by the London firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. The Committee, confirmed Donald Tansley, was reluctant to have its activities extensively analysed, and opposed “intellectual ” debates to operational pragmatism. For reasons of accessibility, for example, the ICRC argued that it alone was capable of judging the impact of visits to prisoners. To preserve its independence, it also refused to be assessed under the pretext of shielding itself from governmental interference. Other organisations within the Red Cross M ovement we re no better. The League abandoned and lost its archives when it evacuated Paris in September 1939. Afterwards, it neglected institutional learning and had no means to pay for evaluations because it was plagued by structural deficits. Only at the end of World War Two did the LRC start to fund performance reviews in order to improve logistics and the coordination of national societies. Even so, point out Daphne Reid and Patrick Gilbo, the League initially refused to let experts examine its operations for the victims of the drought in the Sahel. To begin with, the assessment done in April 1985 only assessed the Swiss Red Cross, which was criticised for its dysfunctional administration, the lack of nutritional policy and distribution problems that meant supplies failed to reach the children most at risk of starvation. The following year, an audit by the firm Price Waterhouse criticised the League for not carrying out feasibility studies before launching relief operations.

-Even when evaluations were carried out, their most negative conclusions were seldom published. It was therefore difficult for the institution to learn from failures and capitalise on its experience . Eric Martin, the president of the Committee, labelled Donald Tansley’s report a “merciless inquisition”. Yet it was the only assessment to be almost fully published . Otherwise, t he ICRC has not released any of the reviews carried out during the 2000s, whether its own, British evaluations by DfID (Department for International Development), or the Avenir study, whose conclusions were briefly addressed in the institution's activity reports. From this point of view, the Committee lags behind the IFRC, which is one of the only humanitarian organisations to post its performance reviews online. Generally speaking, the Red Cross M ovement still needs to improve in this domain. According to Roger Riddell, for instance, the IFRC recently refused to communicate a critical report of its aid to survivors of the Asian Tsunami in December 2004. In November 1987, Mario Enrique Villarroel Lander, the president of the Federation, had even vetoed publication and dismissed his general secretary, Hans Høeg h for releasing Robert Chambers’ report on relief operations for the victims of the Sahel drought without his consent .

-Ultimately, it makes sense to ask questions about the manner in which the ICRC analysed its mistakes. It did not officially recognise its failings with regard to the Jews during World War Two until half a century later. However, the then president Cornelio Sommaruga did not apologise when he delivered a speech in Krakow during the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 26 January 1995 . The Committee also sought to shirk its responsibility for the failures of the ITS (International Tracking Service) to identify survivors of the holocaust, as shown in Christine Rütten’s documentary movie entitled “The Red Cross under the 3rd Reich”, broadcast on the Franco-German channel Arte on 26 September 2007 . Generally speaking, the rare evaluations covering the whole movement do not seem to have been used to improve performance. In a study published in 1988, two representatives of the Hungarian and Finnish Red Crosses, Rezso Sztuchlik and Anja Toivola, remarked that Donald Tansley‘s report of 1975 had had little follow-up. While its recommendations were discussed by the ICRC, only the 23 national societies investigated by the evaluators commented on the document. Most others failed to even read the report, let alone respond to questionnaires sent out afterwards to analyse their views of Donald Tansley's conclusions. The LRC itself simply ignored the evaluators’ proposals, and refused to establish a working group to study them at the 23rd International Conference of the Red Cross in Bucharest in 1977. Instead, in preparation for the 24th I nternational C onference in Manila in 1981, it drew up a rather vague strategic plan, which failed to include a budget forecast. This lack of direction was seen again in the code of conduct adopted in 1993 and ratified at the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross in 1995. According to Alain Mourey, an ICRC nutritionist, these guidelines are too abstract and it is unclear how the movement should actually implement them. Humanitarian organisations are unfamiliar with their terms , while governments do not apply them, as they were not instrumental in their adoption . Drafted under the aegis of Oxfam in 1998, the technical version of this code of conduct, Sphere, simply recommends minimal standards for food or medical services. But it is certainly not sufficient to deal with the crucial issues facing the ICRC.

-One of the major challenges in providing humanitarian aid is to help victims without also helping their tormentors. As an uncompromising opponent of military blockades and embargoes, the Committee is familiar with the problem because it has often supplied war economies. Thus the head of the ICRC in Afghanistan, Jacques de Maio, explained to the French Parliament on 19 May 2010 that the combatants treated by the Red Cross quickly went back to fight, unless they died on the front. Interestingly enough, Nicholas Berry, who criticised the ICRC’s “pacifism”, and John Hutchinson, who wrote a book on its “militarization” , both concluded that the institution helped prolong conflicts by supplying the fighters and/or preventing decisive and rapid victories. Initially, the Geneva Committee even requested the repatriation of prisoners of war before the end of the hostilities, which would have reinforced army ranks! The ICRC has often seen its aid misappropriated by combatants. During the Lebanese war, for instance, one of its vehicles was stolen and probably used in a terrorist attack on the South in 1985. In Somalia in 1991, in Rwanda in 1994, in Liberia in 1996 and in the Sudan in 1998, ICRC deliveries arrived directly into the hands of fighters . Philippe Gaillard, the head of the Committee's delegation in Kigali during the genocide, explained how the institution gave the militias fuel to remove the corpses of their victims . The ICRC even offered petrol to help an apparatchik escape. Moreover, it had to refrain from denouncing the massacres as a crime against humanity to be able to continue its activities. In refugee camps like Ngara in Tanzania, the Committee found itself supplying the militias who were training to return to Rwanda to finish off the genocide. According to Philippe Gaillard as quoted by Carol Bergman, the ICRC was only trying to help families and argued that children should not be punished for their parents' crimes. Unsurprisingly, other organisations of the Red Cross M ovement had similar problems. In Iraq, a special envoy of the Italian society , Maurizio Scelli, stepped in to pay the ransom for two humanitarian staff, Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, who had been kidnapped in September 2004 while working for a small NGO, “A Bridge for Baghdad” . In August 2005, it was reveal ed that, in exchange, the Red Cross had secretly given medical assistance to four terrorists hunted by the American military: a decision approved by Silvio Berlusconi's government.

-In theory, the ICRC is better equipped than most NGOs to prevent the misappropriation of aid by dictatorial or guerrilla rackets. Thanks to the agreements it has signed with numerous countries, its delegations are exempt from customs duties on the imports of humanitarian supplies; t he only taxes applicable must not exceed those applied to public services. Besides, the ICRC has now enough expatriates throughout the world to ensure that its aid reaches victims. According to François Bugnion, the institution monitors food supplies to prisoner of war camps by establishing delivery receipts, drafting distribution reports and sending delegates to cross-check operations. However, matters get complicated when aid is intended for civilian populations in open spaces where it is harder to trace inputs. Despite its attempts to organize impartial distributions, Hans-Peter Gasser, a former delegate, admits quite frankly that the institution is not able to guarantee that relief goods wouldn’t be diverted by hungry soldiers. In any case, the procedures recommended by François Bugnion only allow the ICRC to monitor supplies during delivery. The institution has no control over the use of its aid afterwards.  Moreover, it does not always have personnel on the ground to verify what is going on. During World War Two, its supplies to concentration camps were diverted by the Nazis. Likewise, explains Olive Checkland, very little aid reached prisoners of war held by Tokyo: Geneva’s parcels were instead used to feed an isolated Japanese garrison in the jungle at Aperon for five months in 1944.

-The ICRC’s inability to follow up on the military and political misappropriation of its supplies is particularly obvious for programmes in the Communist bloc during the Cold War. In Berlin, for example, agreements signed in December 1945 lasted de facto until May 1950 and gave the institution permission to deliver aid to the four sectors of the city, the only area still open to the Committee in Eastern Europe at this time. Supplies were divided on a pro rata basis, with 36% dedicated to the Soviet zone, 30% to the American zone, 20% to the British zone and 14% to the French zone. The organisation, which was attributed numerous warehouses along the front lines, was initially in a good position to send delegates to check the distributions entrusted to a people’s mutual aid committee (Volkssolidarität) under the supervision of the communists. However, the Cold War and the I ron C urtain quickly curbed the ICRC's freedom of action. From June 1948 to May 1949, the Berlin Blockade by the Red Army forced the Committee to organise rail convoys from Switzerland that passed through Austria, Czechoslovakia and East Germany to reach the city. The Soviets also wanted all relief operations to be controlled by the External Trade Minister after the establishment of a German Democratic Republic in October 1949. For them, foreign aid had to meet two objectives: assist the working class and help achieve the economic goals of their two-year plan . Consequently, t he Communists opposed personal donations and parcels, for they failed to take collective needs into account and tended to favour more well to do families . In the end, the ICRC lost control of its programmes. Delegates’ trips to the Soviet zone fell from 11 in 1947 to 2 in 1949, according to Catherine Rey-Schyrr. During the Hungarian crisis of 1956 too, the Committee found it difficult to maintain an appropriate humanitarian space. To supervise its distributions, it could theoretically visit feeding centres and get receipts proving that parcels were reaching the victims. In the same vein, it sold some of the relief to hospitals and farmers in order to fund and control a special bank account of the Hungarian Red Cross, which couldn’t use it without the approval of Geneva. According to Isabelle Vonèche Cardia, only "a small part" of the parcels ended up on the black market. "The ICRC could effectively control its programmes” in Hungary. But its relief was heavily taxed by the Soviets, and the local humanitarian personnel was imprisoned and prevented from helping the rebels. For political prisoners too, add Françoise Perret and François Bugnion, the ICRC could not control its distributions.

-Decolonisation was another key period for difficulties in distributing supplies, as there was always a risk that liberation movements would divert aid and supply their combatants first. During t he Vietnam War, for instance, the ICRC was never given information on the programmes it was funding through the Hanoi Red Cross. What it did know was that its parcels were distributed by the communist guerrillas of the Viet Minh in the North from 1946, then the NLF ( National Liberation Front) in the South from 1964. In its 1966 annual report, the Committee admitted it never received any “confirmation of delivery of its aid […] nor information about how it was being deployed”. During the period 1965-1972, this was all the more surprising because, contrary to popular belief, the ICRC sent more money and medicine to the Red Cross in the North than in the South, according to Keith Suter. In neighbouring Laos, the Committee adopted a similar strategy. From June 1961, it tried to work with the communist insurgents of the Pathet Lao. But except for the case of four Americans (including journalist Grant Wolfkill) in Xieng Khouang in November 1961, it was not allowed to visit prisoners in the hands of the guerrilla and could only assist those on the government’s side. Moreover, it could not prevent the Pathet Lao from brainwashing its captives and forcing them to work in camps. In other words, it had no access to rebel zones, while insecurity also restrained its work, as an ICRC doctor on his way to Saigon, Jacob Sturzenegger, died in a plane crash on 12 March 1975 near the village of Thanh-An in the Pleiku region. Likewise in Africa from 1973 onwards , the institution resolved to hand over medicine and ambulances to guerrillas controlling territories it could not enter, such as the PAIGC (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde), the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola), the FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola), the FRELIMO (Frente de Libertação de Mozambique), the ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's Union), the ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), the SWAPO (South-West Africa People's Organisation), the PAC (Pan-Africanist Congress) and the ANC (African National Congress).

-Of course, the ICRC always argued that its compromises were in the best interests of the victims. However, highly debatable concessions have been made for the sake of gaining access to prisoners. To silence Arab rumours that its delegates to Palestine in 1948 were Jewish , for instance, the Committee confirmed in writing that its personnel did not have Israeli ancestry, and even momentarily considered proving the Aryan descent of its expatriates by putting “Christian” on their identity papers . Later on, it requested that Palestinian prisoners repeat their accusations of ill-treatment in front of Israeli officers before officially forwarding their complaints: a procedure which exposed plaintiffs to the risk of retaliation from their jailers, as underlined in the National Guild of Lawyer's report of 1978, quoted by David Weissbrodt and James McCarthy. For diplomatic and political reasons, t he ICRC also disregarded its own protocol for prison visits . In East Germany in the mid-1960s, note David Weissbrodt and James McCarthy, it agreed to help prisoners of conscience without having permission to meet them alone. In doing so, it hoped to set a precedent for future activities in Communist countries . Globally, around 10% of ICRC interviews with prisoners took place in the presence of jailers in 1970.

-It is understandable that to gain access to victims, the Committee was sometimes forced to choose the lesser evil and take certain risks. For example , the institution preferred to create stateless person categories rather that forcefully repatriate prisoners of war who did not want to return to their countries, as for  some Russians after 1945, North Koreans after 1953 and Iraqis after 1991. The ICRC also recognised that its visits to prisons could give legitimacy to the detaining powers, like the Greek military junta in the late 1960s. The risk was even higher in regimes that only authorised Geneva to assist “official” prisoners after their trial , as this shifted the focus away from “suspects” tortured in police stations, military barracks and secret detention centres, where abuses were most frequent. In worst case scenarios, explains David Forsythe, ICRC inspections sometimes encouraged the authorities to hide or eliminate mistreated inmates . After the junta in Chile gave the ICRC permission to access political prisoners, for instance, the military in Argentina preferred to kill opponents to avoid being held responsible for bad imprisonment conditions. In another case, royalist leaders who were pressed by the Geneva Committee to exchange prisoners with the republicans in North Yemen in 1964 were eventually assassinated by “hawks” in their own camp.

-Some “collateral damage” is inevitable if we want humanitarian activities to continue. However, the ICRC’s liabilities are more serious when it contributes directly to supporting warring parties . Its role in providing fuel to the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, even for humanitarian purposes, was shocking. Imagine the scandal that would have ensued had the institution helped fuel the Nazi gas chambers to stop Jewish suffering! The question must be asked whether these compromises actually save lives. In its 1994 annual report, the ICRC acknowledged that its “protection work [had] a very limited impact” in Rwanda. Meanwhile, it attempted to make up for the inability of failed or weak states to maintain their prisons in working order. In the mid-1990s, the ICRC decided to “take over, partially or completely and in a lasting manner, from detaining authorities”. Its concern was to ensure the survival of prison populations at risk of dying from hunger, sickness or physical exhaustion. The organisation therefore undertook to renovate existing structures or to build new ones in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, Liberia, Madagascar, Yemen and Haiti. In Nsinda, Rwanda, it funded the construction of seven “temporary” prisons to improve detention conditions for genocide suspects waiting for trial. It also supplied food to the prisoners until January 2004 , when the government finally began to take over and look after the 89,000 people accused of participating in the massacres of April- July 1994. The ICRC then supported plans to reform the Rwandan prison system.

-In this respect, the Committee has not demonstrated that it is truly committed to doing no harm and to limiting the undesirable effects of aid . Its “Doctrine 15”, discussed above in the section on public relations , simply states what conditions are required before the organisation c an denounce massive and repeated violations of humanitarian international law. It deals with the prospect of being expelled from a country, but makes no provisions for a withdrawal strategy should ICRC aid cause more harm than good. Practically speaking, the Committee could learn lessons from an objective analysis of the situations where its operations have had negative effects. The ICRC withdrew for these reasons from Ethiopia in 1988, Tajikistan in 1997 and Madagascar in 2006.  In most cases, however, it ch ose to continue its programmes, at the risk of appearing complicit in abuses. This approach differs to that of NGOs like  MSF (Médecins sans frontières), which decided in 1995 to withdraw from Rwandan refugee camps to avoid giving assistance to war criminals and “genocidal” militias. Otherwise, the ICRC’s strategy is not very different from other organisations of the Red Cross M ovement which are less concerned by the misappropriation of aid . A t the end of the Spanish Civil war in 1939, notes for instance Charles Hurd, the ARC (American Red Cross) was keen to satisfy its Catholic donors, who were hostile to the Republicans’ anticlerical opinions. So it started to supply t he N ationalists and its flour was used to reimburse loans contracted with Germany to buy weapons. Despite the pressure of the American public, which had given up to 70 million dollars to help the victims of the Nazis, it was President Franklin Roosevelt who, later on, prevented the ARC from providing assistance to France, Holland and Belgium after 1940, for fear that humanitarian aid would end up in the hands of the German occupation troops . The BRCS(British Red Cross Society) did not perform better. In Nazi Germany it did manage to obtain receipts proving that its parcels were reaching British prisoners of war: a ccording to Philip George Cambray, only 16% of food supplies were misappropriated or lost in 1942. In the Soviet Union, however, the BRCS was never authorised to monitor the delivery of humanitarian goods to civilians. In Japan , it was unable to obtain receipts to ensure supplies reached British prisoners of war. When Tokyo surrendered, the Allies found some donated food rotting in warehouses. Yet the Red Cross M ovement failed to learn its lesson. Unlike MSF, which withdrew from North Korea in 1998 because it was not given permission to freely access famine victims, the IFRC continued to work in the last Stalinist dictatorship on earth, thus participating in the communist selection of which groups deserved to be fed and live, or to die by starvation. The Federation argued that its activities helped keep the peace by preventing the collapse of the regime and encouraging the authorities to negotiate a stop to the country’s nuclear arms programme. Behind the humanitarian façade, the objectives were clearly political: to contain a possible influx of North Korean refugees towards Seoul, and to ease the diplomatic relationship between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

-Despite its analytical capabilities, the ICRC’s stubbornness to continue its most problematic programmes is surprising, as the organisation has always been able to re-launch activities in the rare countries it has withdrawn from. In Tajikistan, for instance, the Committee stopped its one-year-old food programme in detention centres where it had been denied access and where supplies were diverted in January 1997. Nonetheless, the institution managed to obtain a partial authorisation to officially visit prisons in June 2003. In other countries, it took much less time to restart activities. In Madagascar, the ICRC suspended, then completely ceased, its prison rehabilitation programme in May and November 2006 respectively, as it had had little success in improving detention conditions. But it soon recommenced its visits when the government decided to adopt a new penitential law in May 2007. Burma is another example. In July 1995, the ICRC closed its Rangoon office and sent its expatriates to Thailand, after the junta blocked access to political prisoners and Karen rebel zones. Four years later, however, it was given permission to return to the country, and sent teams to the provinces of Hpa-an, Kyaing Tong and Mawlamyine. When the regime’s “hawks” regained power in October 2004 and arrested Prime Minister Khin Nyunt (the former Chief of Military Intelligence), the Committee repeatedly protested against various abuses. After a new appeal to the international community in November 2005, the ICRC obtained the right to reopen its five regional offices in Hpa-an, Kyaing Tong, Mandalay, Mawlamyine and Taunggyi. Unable to continue its prison visits, the Committee eventually denounced the regime’s serious and systematic human rights violations in June 2007. Surprisingly, its press release did not lead to government retaliation and t he ICRC was not thrown out of the country. It therefore continued organising visits for prisoners' families and running orthopaedic programmes for those who had been disabled during the war. When the regime repressed Buddhist monks after demonstrations in August 2007, pressure from the international community certainly helped matters. The government was encouraged to adopt a more moderate course of action by its powerful Chinese ally, which was grateful to the ICRC for having obtained the release of some of its citizens kidnapped by rebels in Niger and in Ethiopian Ogaden. As for the junta’s position towards the Committee, it was perhaps a strategy to avoid major concessions to the international community, playing the humanitarian card rather than the political one and negotiating access to prisons instead of sharing power with the opposition.

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- Right to reply -

AidWatch thanks the ICRC for its cooperation, especially the delegates who took time to answer the author’s questions. The “History” part and the Comments above were sent to the president of the institution, Mr. Jakob Kellenberger, before their publication. AidWatch remains open to ICRC members or collaborators who would like to bring more information.
Translation of the Comments: Rhonda Campbell; Translation of the History, 1933-1979: Robert Reay-Jones. Latest update: 16/06/2011


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