Henry Dunant medals for outstanding humanitarian service awarded at Red Cross Red Crescent Council of Delegates

Published: 23 November 2007

Four Henry Dunant medals for outstanding humanitarian service were awarded at a ceremony in Geneva today. The medal is the highest distinction of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

The recipients are:

Hon. James Joseph Carlton, former secretary general of the Australian Red Cross and Australian Minister of Health from 1982 to 1983; Christophe Hensch, former ICRC delegate and survivor of the tragic attack on the Red Cross hospital in the Chechen town of Novye Atagi, in 1996;

Alexander Dumba Ika, former head of the Congolese Red Cross tracing service in Ituri and head of the ICRC delegation in Bunia; Josiane Gabel, former French Red Cross delegate in Congo and in Chad and National First Aid Director of the Chad Red Cross.

The medals were awarded on the opening day of the Council of Delegates, composed of representatives from the 186 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Medal, named after the founder of the Movement, is awarded every two years to individuals to acknowledge and reward exceptional service and acts of great devotion to the Red Cross and Red Crescent cause. 

The Henry Dunant medal is a red cross embossed with the profile of the Movement’s founder, attached to a green ribbon. It was created by the Council of Delegates in 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Movement, and the first medals were awarded in 1969 at the Istanbul International Conference.

Profiles of the recipients

James Joseph Carlton
He became secretary general of the Australian Red Cross in 1994, after a successful political career as a member of Parliament and then as Minister of Health. He used his managerial skills and experience to make the Australian Red Cross a strong and unified organization, dedicated to serving the public. He actively promoted International Humanitarian Law as well as the international action of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to the Australian authorities and public, and strengthened cooperation between the Australian Red Cross and other components of the Movement. Active on the international, as well as the national front, he supported the establishment of an HIV/AIDS peer education project in China as well as several Afghan Red Crescent programmes. The tribute reads that James Carlton was awarded the Henry Dunant medal “for his personal commitment, his important contribution to the development of humanitarian activities and for his work in promoting the Movement’s Fundamental Principles and ideals”.

Christophe Hensch
Exceptional courage and commitment best describe Christophe Hensch’s career as an ICRC delegate. He carried out a series of difficult missions in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Russia and Iran, displaying in each case, the tribute reads, “absolute commitment, unwavering professionalism, great openness to dialogue and profound respect for others”. In late 1996, Christophe Hensch was working at the hospital set up by the Norwegian Red Cross in the Chechen town of Novye Atagi, which provided vital medical care to hundreds of sick and wounded people. In the night of 16 to 17 December, armed men attacked the hospital compound and six members of the staff – five nurses and one engineer - were murdered in cold blood. Christophe Hensch was shot at point-blank range – he fell to the ground, lay still and was left for dead. After recovery and despite his ordeal, he took on new missions and contributed to the design of programmes to help victims of similar situations overcome their trauma. He receives the medal for his “devotion to humanitarian work, both before and after the Novye Atagi tragedy”.

Alexander Dumba Ika
From the age of 16, when he joined the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and throughout his Red Cross career, Alexander Dumba Ika displayed extraordinary dedication to the humanitarian cause. As head of the Congolese Red Cross tracing service in the district of Ituri, and working in difficult circumstances, he successfully reunited hundreds of unaccompanied children with their families. He later joined the ICRC in Bunia, where he often walked or cycled long distances in a high risk environment to deliver family messages to remote communities. In 1998, he risked his life to protect the delegation, so that conflict victims could continue to receive humanitarian aid. In 1999, when conflict broke out in Ituri, he persuaded the ICRC to launch a large-scale operation which benefited tens of thousands of people. Two years later, after the Fataki tragedy in which six of his colleagues were killed, he carried on with his work at great personal risk, until the delegation was evacuated and closed. He is awarded the medal for his “commitment to humanitarian ideals, his courage and his dedication”.

Josiane Gabel
With a Red Cross career begun in her 20’s and continuing now, beyond retirement age, Mrs. Gabel has been “a symbol of unwavering belief in humanitarian action”. A nurse and first aid instructor, she set up first aid training in Kwilu province, in the former Belgian Congo, in 1962. Putting her life at risk, she also provided vital first aid services as she travelled across the dangerous rebel zones and took time to promote the Geneva Conventions to civil and military officials. In 1964, she founded an orphanage for victims of the civil war in Congo. In the 1970’s, Josiane Gabel worked in Chad as a French Red Cross delegate, setting up a first aid unit and bush clinics. After successfully advocating for the creation of a National Society, she helped set up the Chad Red Cross and subsequently became National First Aid Director. Today, Mrs. Gabel pursues her Red Cross activities with great energy, skill and commitment, as vice-president of a local delegation in Le Vigan, France. The tribute describes her as “a person of determination and courage, gifted with rare persuasive powers” and “fully devoted to helping the most vulnerable”.