On 17 December 1996, a field hospital in Chechnya was deliberately attacked. In the middle of the night armed men stormed the hospital and murdered six staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A seventh staff member, an Australian Red Cross staff member named Christoph Hensch, was shot in his bed and left for dead. He survived and continues to work for the Movement.
Ever since, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement remembers not only those who died that day in Chechnya, but all those who died during the year while performing their humanitarian duties.
2017 marks the 21st anniversary of the Chechnyan attack and since then there have been more than 500 Red Cross and Red Crescent people killed in the line of duty.
This year, it is estimated that 45 Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers have been killed.
2017 has been a particularly violent year for humanitarians. 294 aid workers have been killed, injured or kidnapped in the first six months alone.
These attacks are horrific but their fallout is arguably, equally as unjust. For the consequences of these killings are far-reaching and wide; are not limited to the family and friends of those killed, the colleagues with whom they worked, or even the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement as a whole.
These incidents have an immediate and devastating impact on the people in countries where Red Cross works. On the hundreds of thousands of Afghanis who have come to rely on life-saving healthcare. On the countless Somalis, Central Africans, Iraqis and Syrians and many more who after enduring unspeakable trauma and hardship have had to lean on aid for immediate survival.
Attacks such as these are more than just a violation of International Humanitarian Law, they are an attack on humanity itself.
It is for this reason Red Cross strives to make everyone understand that even wars have limits; and why we protect our emblems and their significance as protective devices in wartime.
We honour our colleagues’ lives and we mourn the too-high price they paid in carrying out their work.
Now and always, we are Not a Target.