Wellington, April 16 (IANS) New Zealand on Tuesday criticised the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for disclosing the identity of a nurse abducted by the Islamic State (IS) terror group in 2013 in Syria.
Vice Prime Minister Winston Peters was speaking on the issue two days after the ICRC made a public call for information about three staff members held captive by the IS for more than five years in the war-torn country, Efe news reported.
The ICRC identified the abducted personnel with their names and countries of origin, describing Louisa Akavi, a citizen of New Zealand, as “an experienced, dedicated and resilient nurse who has carried out 17 field missions with the ICRC and the New Zealand Red Cross”.
Successive New Zealand governments had since her abduction in October 2013 kept Akavi’s capture and her identity secret over fears that it might jeopardise her life.
She was reportedly last seen in January tending to wounded fighters in Al-Baghuz, the last IS stronghold in Syria.
“What I said was, was that the message that was being carried (that the government supported the decision to release the information) was balderdash. That’s a very polite way of describing how one person has, in my view, dropped the ball so to speak,” Peters told Radio New Zealand.
“Not the whole organisation and not the wider international purpose of being engaged there, but I don’t want to condemn a highly worthy international humanitarian organization.”
The New Zealand government established a group in 2013 to locate Akavi and went on to send a team of special forces and intelligence personnel to Iraq and Syria to try to rescue her, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
Ardern also expressed her opposition to the ICRC’s decision to make Akavi’s identity public.
Akavi, who has been working for the Red Cross since 1988, was kidnapped by the IS along with Alaa Rajab and Nabil Bakdounes, both Syrians, who worked as drivers for ICRC.