Louisa Akavi: Winston Peters accuses International Red Cross of putting kidnap victim in more danger

Mr Peters claims the release of Ms Akavi's story puts her at more risk. - Photo: International Committee of the Red Cross / Rebekah Parsons-King - RNZ

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has accused the International Red Cross (ICRC) of putting the life of New Zealand nurse Louisa Akavi at increased risk by going public with her kidnapping.

The aid agency went public yesterday confirming that the 62-year-old was kidnapped by Islamic State in Syria in 2013.

For years, RNZ and other news media have agreed to keep her capture secret but the ICRC agency has now decided to appeal for information.

Mr Peters attacked the move, saying the release of Ms Akavi's story puts her in more danger.

At a post-Cabinet news conference, Jacinda Ardern refused to directly criticise the International Red Cross - known as the ICRC - but repeatedly stated that the government opposed its decision and made that clear to the agency.

"It absolutely remains the government's view that it would be preferable if this case were not in the public domain. For that reason I won't be commenting further on it.''

Ms Ardern said she understood the interest in the case, which was why the government released some details about the kidnapping but that was where the flow of information stopped.

She wouldn't comment on reports of a ransom demand, New Zealand's operation to try locate Louisa Akavi or even if she is still thought to be alive.

She wouldn't even say what message she had for Ms Akavi's family.

When the Red Cross expressed surprise that Ms Ardern didn't want Louisa Akavi's story to be told, Mr Peters came out swinging.

In a statement from his office he said the government was aware the ICRC was talking with the New York Times and advised at the "highest level of New Zealand's preference not to publish".

He said the government's view continues to be that the release of her story now "increases the risks to her life".

The foreign minister insists if there was any acknowledgement of Red Cross' media plan, "it was not an endorsement".

In stark contrast just an hour earlier the agency's Director of Operations Dominik Stillhart told media it would not have gone public without the government's support.

In a livestream from Geneva, Mr Stillhart went on to say he's surprised by what he's hearing now.

"When I woke up this morning and I saw that was the information that came out of New Zealand, I was slightly surprised. We had numerous discussions, we knew what we were doing, the decision was taken in full cooperation with the government,'' he said.

Louisa Akavi was on her 17th mission, delivering medical supplies in Syria when the convoy she was travelling in came under attack and seven people were abducted.

Four were released the next day, but Ms Akavi and two Syrian drivers were not among them.

For her family it's been five-and-a-half years of not knowing her fate and not being able to talk about her disappearance.

Ms Akavi's kidnapping is the longest in the 156 years of the ICRC.

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