The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) accepted a request from the Colombian and Ecuadorean authorities to recover the bodies of the team of journalists kidnapped and murdered by a criminal group operating on the border between the two countries.
The ICRC “confirms it received a petition from Ecuadorean and Colombian authorities, as well as from the families and the group led by Guacho, to recover the bodies of the two Ecuadorean journalists and the driver held against their will since March 26,” the committee said in a press release Friday.
The head of the ICRC in Colombia, Christoph Harnisch, called on “all armed groups to respect the humanitarian laws... taking hostages and killing civilians is condemnable from any point of view.” He also asked media outlets to “respect the pain and right to privacy of the families, as well as the confidential nature of a great part of the information we handle in this type of situations.”
The location of the remains has not been disclosed.
Journalist Javier Ortega, photographer Paul Rivas, and driver Efrain Segarra were kidnapped by Oliver Sinisterra Front group on March 26 in Ecuador's northern border in Mataje, Esmeraldas province, while reporting on the increasing violence in the region for the daily El Comercio.
The Colombian government considers the group a FARC splinter group that didn't agree with the 2016 peace agreement between the former Marxist insurgent group and the Colombian government. However, the criminal group has no connection with the democratic political party the Revolutionary Alternative Forces of the Commons, also known as FARC, which was formed after the group's demobilization.
On Wednesday, a statement purportedly by the Oliver Sinisterra Front said the three El Comercio staff kidnapped by the group last month had been killed, blaming the governments of Ecuador and Colombia for their deaths.
"The Ecuadorean government and Colombian minister did not want to save the lives of the three detained; they did it with the military landing in various points near the place where the men were detained, which resulted in the death of the two journalists and the driver," the statement claimed.
Protests and vigils have taken place in ecuador over the past few days mourning the death of the journalists team and criticizing the government of Ecuador for the way it handled the situation.
The governments of Ecuador and Colombia have said they are conducting operations along the border to hunt the perpetrators. Ecuador has also announced an award for information on the group and its leaders.