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Commentary - Part IV : Civilian population #Section II -- Relief in favour of the civilian population
    [p.805] Part IV, Section II -- Relief in favour of the civilian population


    Introduction

    2765 Providing supplies for the civilian population in time of armed conflict is a basic problem, as events have frequently and cruelly shown.

    2766 The fourth Convention contains numerous provisions -- Articles 47 -78 -- relating to the obligations of an Occupying Power with respect to the population of the occupied territory. Moreover, Article 23 of this Convention deals with the free passage to be allowed to consignments intended for the civilian population of the Parties to the conflict. However, this article imposes fairly narrow limits with regard to the persons who may benefit from relief and regarding the nature of the relief.

    2767 A major area of concern with regard to this problem became apparent within the context of the Red Cross, and more generally, to the whole of the international community. The XXIst International Conference of the Red Cross (Istanbul, 1969) adopted in Resolution XXVI a "Declaration of Principles for International Humanitarian Relief to the Civilian Population in Disaster Situations". (1) In Resolution 2675 (XXV) of 9 December 1970 the United [p.806] Nations General Assembly, "' convinced ' that civilian populations are in special need of increased protection in time of armed conflicts", reaffirmed eight fundamental principles relating to the protection of the civilian population in time of armed conflict, of which the eighth (2) confirms the applicability of the Declaration mentioned above in the case of armed conflict.

    2768 The question was discussed during the drafting of the Draft Protocols, particularly in the Conferences of Government Experts and Red Cross Experts. As it considered that the problem of relief in occupied territory was adequately dealt with in the fourth Convention, the 1973 draft laid the emphasis on the needs of civilian populations who were not in occupied territory, i.e., essentially of the population on the territory of a Party to the conflict. The first article determined the field of application of the Section, and was followed by an article underlining the responsibility of the Parties to the conflict to secure supplies for the civilian population, and a third article laying down the principle that relief actions should be undertaken and accepted when a Party to the conflict does not manage to secure such supplies. In addition, this article laid down the ways in which these actions are to be undertaken.

    2769 During the Diplomatic Conference some delegations, in the name of the principle of national sovereignty, took issue over the propriety of an article reminding a Party to the conflict of its obligations to secure supplies for its own population. In fact, it could be argued that such a question is an issue of human rights rather than international humanitarian law.

    2770 Moreover, some considered that a Party to the conflict could not be prevented from according, in this field, priorities based on military necessity rather than humanitarian criteria (for example, privileges accorded to members of the armed forces to ensure their health). Therefore, as the Parties to the conflict could not be forced to fulfil this obligation ' without adverse distinction, ' they did not consider it worth mentioning. (3)

    2771 On the other hand, there was a considerable body of opinion that the obligation of an Occupying Power to ensure essential supplies for the civilian population of occupied territory should be supplemented, despite the existence of the many provisions relating to such territory in the fourth Convention. Consequently, in order to meet this concern -- and not because it was logically required by the general framework of the draft -- the article was finally formulated.

    2772 However, the large majority of the civilian population, who are not in occupied territory in time of armed conflict, was not forgotten. Though the Conference did not consider it appropriate to introduce an article on the responsibility of each Party to the conflict to secure supplies for its own population, as we have just [p.807] seen, it did, on the other hand, agree to lay down the principle that relief actions must be undertaken in favour of all civilian populations with insufficient supplies, as laid down in the draft. Moreover, the ways in which this principle is to be applied are broadly described.

    2773 Finally, the Conference added an article on the question of personnel participating in relief actions, which was not broached either in the Conventions or in the 1973 draft.

    2774 In conclusion, compared with the Conventions, the Protocol is characterized by enlarging the range of supplies deemed essential to the civilian population of occupied territory; by an extension of the benefit of this relief to the whole of the civilian population; by an emphasis on the obligation -- even though still relative -- for the
    Parties to the conflict to accept relief in case of necessity; by provisions relating to the personnel participating in relief actions, who had been hitherto ignored.

    ' Y. S. '


    NOTES

    (1) [(1) p.805] The Declaration is as follows:
    "1. The fundamental concern of mankind and of the international community in disaster situations is the protection and welfare of the individual and the safeguarding of basic human rights.
    2. Relief by impartial international humanitarian organizations for civilian populations in natural or other disaster situations should as far as possible be treated as a humanitarian and non-political matter and should be so organized as to avoid prejudicing sovereign and other legal rights in order that the confidence of the Parties to a conflict in the impartiality of such organizations may be preserved.
    3. The activities of impartial international humanitarian organizations for the benefit of civilian populations should be coordinated in order to secure prompt action and effective allocation of resources and to avoid duplication of effort.
    4. Disaster relief for the benefit of civilian populations is to be provided without discrimination and the offer of such relief by an impartial international humanitarian organization ought not to be regarded as an unfriendly act.
    5. All States are requested to exercise their sovereign and other legal rights so as to facilitate the transit, admission and distribution of relief supplies provided by impartial international humanitarian organizations for the benefit of civilian populations in disaster areas when disaster situations imperil the life and welfare of such populations
    6. All authorities in disaster areas should facilitate disaster relief activities by impartial international humanitarian organizations for the benefit of civilian populations;

    (2) [(2) p.806] The complete text of this eighth principle is as follows; "The provision of international relief to civilian populations is in conformity with the humanitarian principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments in the field of human rights. The Declaration of Principles for International Humanitarian Relief to the Civilian Population in Disaster Situations, as laid down in Resolution XXVI adopted by the twenty-first International Conference of the Red Cross, shall apply in situations of armed -- conflict, and all parties to a conflict should make every effort to facilitate this application.";

    (3) [(3) p.806] On the points mentioned in this paragraph and the preceding paragraph, cf. O.R. XII, p. 316, CDDH/II/SR.84, paras. 31-35;