From The Guardian World:
The revelation that a New Zealand nurse has been detained in Syria for five years has prompted tensions between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the New Zealand government, with the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, criticising the aid agency for releasing details of the woman’s abduction.
On Monday the New York Times, in conjunction with the ICRC, revealed that New Zealander Louisa Akavi, 63, had been abducted along with two Syrian colleagues on 13 October 2013.
The trio have now been held hostage for longer than anyone in the 156-year history of the group.
New Zealand’s domestic media learned of the abduction in 2013 but were asked by the government not to publish any stories relating to the kidnapping in case it put the group’s safety at risk.
After the story broke on Monday senior figures from the ICRC and New Zealand Red Cross released a series of videos pleading for information about Akavi. Her Red Cross colleagues and family also spoke.
But the publicity was not welcomed by the government. At her weekly press conference, Ardern repeatedly refused to comment on the missing New Zealander and said the government remained of the opinion that the nurse’s name and situation should not have been made public.
“Our view was that it should remain out of the public … we’ve taken a different view, we’ve disagreed with them [ICRC],” Ardern later told RNZ in a weekly interview.
“Our position didn’t change, we did know the International Red Cross had a different view, we were aware of their plan, it just didn’t mean that we agreed with them.
“It won’t change our relationship [with the ICRC], it just happens to be that we’ve taken different perspectives at this point.”
The foreign minister, Winston Peters, said efforts to locate Akavi were “ongoing” and the government would not comment on operational and intelligence matters, although he did reveal that members of the New Zealand SAS had at one point been deployed to Syria as part of a multi-agency effort to rescue her.
“We advised the ICRC at the highest level that NZ’s preference was not to publish,” he said in a statement.
“The New Zealand view then, and continues to be, that the release of her story now increased the risks to her life. If there was any acknowledgement of their media plan, it was not an endorsement of their approach.”
ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart said he was “surprised” that the New Zealand government had criticised the ICRC decision, as he believed it had the government’s support. He said a government representative was in his office on Friday and they were “fully aligned” on the next move.
“I think it’s important to understand that every decision since 13 October 2013 was to maximise the chance of Louisa’s freedom, and every decision was co-ordinated with the New Zealand government … and that included the difficult decision to go public,” said Stillhart.
“I am confident the decision was made in full transparency and co-ordination with the New Zealand government”
“We would not have made that decision without the support of the New Zealand Government.”
The decision to publish Akavi’s story also drew criticism from some New Zealand media outlets.
TV3’s national correspondent Patrick Gower called the Red Cross decision to go public “reckless in the extreme” and said the spat between the government and the aid agency was “a disgrace”.
The last confirmed sighting of Akavi was in late 2018 near the Euphrates river at the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The original content can be found here: Jacinda Ardern and Red Cross lock horns over publication of nurse's kidnap in Syria