• Send page
  • Print page

Resolutions of the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent: Resolution 2

29-02-1996 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 310

 Protection of the civilian population in period of armed conflict  

The 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, deeply alarmed  

- by the spread of violence and the massive and continuing violations of international humanitarian law throughout the world,

- by the immense suffering this causes among the civilian population in cases of armed conflict or foreign occupation of a territory, and in particular by the spread of acts of genocide, the practice of " ethnic cleansing " , widespread murder, forced displacement of persons and the use of force to prevent their return home, hostage-taking, torture, rape and arbitrary detention, all of which violate international humanitarian law,

- by the serious violations of international humanitarian law constituted by acts aimed at the expulsion of the civilian population from certain areas or even the extermination of the civilian population, or by compelling civilians to collaborate in such practices,

- by the serious violations of international humanitarian law in internal as well as international armed con flicts constituted by acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population and by acts of violence or of terror making civilians the object of attack,

- by the difficulties encountered by humanitarian institutions in performing their tasks in armed conflicts, in particular when State structures have disintegrated,

- by the growing disparity between the humanitarian pledges made by certain parties to armed conflicts and the profoundly inhumane practices of those same parties,

- by the rapid expansion of the arms trade and the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons, especially those which may have indiscriminate effects or cause unnecessary suffering,

    

 stressing the importance of full compliance with and implementation of international humanitarian law, and

 recalling that international humanitarian law and international instruments relating to human rights offer basic protection to the human person,

    

 recalling the obligation of States to repress violations of international humanitarian law and urging them to increase international efforts

- to bring before courts and punish war criminals and those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law,

- to establish permanently an international criminal court,

    

 reaffirming that any party to an armed conflict which violates international humanitarian law shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation,

    

 aware that the urgency of alleviating the suffering of the civilian population in times of armed conflict should not distract attention from the pressing obligation to fight the root causes of conflicts and the need to find solutions to conflicts,

    

 alarmed by the deliberate and systematic destruction of movable and immoveable property of importance to the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples, such as places of worship and monuments of architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular,

    

 particularly concerned by the plight of women, children, dispersed families, the disabled and elderly, and civilian populations stricken by famine, deprived of access to water and subjected to the scourge of antipersonnel landmines as well as other weapons used indiscriminately,

 A. With regard to the whole of the civilian population:  

(a)  reaffirms the obligation of all States to respect in all circumstances the relevant principles and norms of international humanitarian law, and of States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and States party to the 1977 Additional Protocols to ensure respect for the Conventions and Protocols

(b)  strongly condemns the systematic and massive killing of civilians in armed conflicts;

(c)  urges States and all parties to armed conflicts to comply in all circumstances and to ensure compliance by their armed forces with the relevant principles and norms of international humanitarian law and, with the support of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Movement), to take the necessary measures to disseminate them;

(d)  stresses that international humanitarian law provides for the protection of the civilian population in case of foreign occupation and against attacks, the effects of hostilities and dangers arising from military operations;

(e)  welcomes the efforts being undertaken to develop the rules of international humanitarian law applicable to multilateral peacekeeping operations and enforcement actions;

(f)  stresses also the utmost importance, in all circumstances, of humanitarian standards and the necessity to respect applicable human rights norms;

(g)  condemns sexual violence directed against any person and stresses that rape and forced prostitution in the course of an armed conflict or instigated by any party to a conflict constitute war crimes;

(h)  strongly reasserts the right of a civilian population in need to benefit from impartial humanitarian relief actions in accordance with international humanitarian law;

(i)  emphasizes the importance for humanitarian organizations to have unimpeded access in ti mes of armed conflict to civilian populations in need, in accordance with the applicable rules of international humanitarian law;

(j)  invites States party to Additional Protocol I to implement and disseminate the rules of the Protocol regarding civil defence and recommends that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in collaboration with the International Civil Defence Organization, encourage international cooperation in this field and the inclusion of this question in international meetings on international humanitarian law;

(k)  urges the ICRC, the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation), in accordance with the requirements of their mandates, to intensify their efforts to disseminate those rules, and to assist and protect the civilian population in armed conflicts;

 B. With regard to women:  

(a)  expresses its outrage at practices of sexual violence in armed conflicts, in particular the use of rape as an instrument of terror, forced prostitution and any other form of indecent assault;

(b)  recognizes the fundamental link between assistance to and protection of women victims of conflict, and urges that strong measures be taken to provide women with the protection and assistance to which they are entitled under national and international law;

(c)  strongly condemns sexual violence, in particular rape, in th e conduct of armed conflict as a war crime, and under certain circumstances a crime against humanity, and urges the establishment and strengthening of mechanisms to investigate, bring to justice and punish all those responsible;

(d)  underlines the importance of providing appropriate training to prosecutors, judges and other officials in handling such cases, in order to preserve the dignity and interests of the victims;

(e)  encourages States, the Movement and other competent entities and organizations to develop preventive measures, assess existing programmes and set up new programmes to ensure that women victims of conflict receive medical, psychological and social assistance, provided if possible by qualified personnel who are aware of the specific issues involved;

 C. With regard to children:  

(a)  urgently draws attention to the obligation to take all requisite measures to provide children with the protection and assistance to which they are entitled under national and international law;

(b)  strongly condemns deliberate killing and sexual exploitation of, and abuse of and violence against children, and calls for particularly stringent measures to prevent and punish such behaviour;

(c)  also strongly condemns recruitment and conscription of children under the age of 15 years in the armed forces or armed groups, which constitute a violation of international humanitarian law, and demands that those responsible for such acts be brought to justice and punished;

(d)  recommends that parties to conflict refrain from arming children under the age of 18 years and take every feasible step to ensure that children under the age of 18 years do not take part in hostilities;

(e)  supports the work being done by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the involvement of children in armed conflicts with a view to adopting an optional Protocol to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the purpose of which is to increase the protection of children involved in armed conflicts;

(f)  takes note of the efforts of the Movement to promote a principle of non-recruitment and non-participation in armed conflicts of children under the age of 18 years, and supports its practical action to protect and assist all children who are victims of conflict;

(g)  encourages States, the Movement and other competent entities and organizations to develop preventive measures, assess existing programmes and set up new programmes to ensure that child victims of conflict receive medical, psychological and social assistance, provided if possible by qualified personnel who are aware of the specific issues involved

 D. With regard to the reunification of families:  

(a)  demands that all parties to armed conflict avoid any action aimed at, or having the effect of, causing the separation of families in a manner contrary to international humanitarian law;

(b)  appeals to States to do their utmost to solve the serious humanitarian issue of dispersed families without delay;

(c)  emphasizes that family reunification must begin with the tracing of separated family members at the request of one of them and end with their coming together as a family;

(d)  stresses the particular vulnerability of children separated from their families as a result of armed conflict, and invites the ICRC, the National Societies and the International Federation, within the scope of their respective mandates, to intensify their efforts to locate unaccompanied children, to identify them, to re-establish contact and reunite them with their families, and to give them the necessary assistance and support;

(e)  notes that the form of a family may vary from one culture to the other, recognizes the aspiration of separated families to be reunited and appeals to States to apply criteria for family reunification in such a way that they take into account the situation of those family members who are most vulnerable;

(f)  requests that the legal status of family members in a host country be determined swiftly and in a humanitarian spirit, with a view to ensuring the facilitation of family reunification;

(g)  calls upon States to facilitate the tracing activities of their respective National Red Cross or Red Crescent Societies by granting them access to the relevant data;

(h)  encourages National Societies to maximize their efficiency in carrying out tracing work and family reunifications by strengthening their tracing and social welfare activities and maintaining close cooperation with the ICRC, government authorities and other competent organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in such work;

(i)  calls upon States to support National Societies in carrying out such tracing work and family reunifications

(j)  commends the role of the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency (CTA) in tracing and reuniting family members, and encourages the CTA to continue to coordinate, whenever necessary, National Society activities in tracing and reuniting families and to train National Society staff in the principles and techniques of tracing;

(k) stresses the need and the right of families to obtain information on missing persons, including missing prisoners of war and those missing in action, and strongly urges States and parties to armed conflict to provide families with information on the fate of their missing relatives;

(l)  urges States and parties to armed conflict to cooperate with the ICRC in tracing missing persons and providing necessary documentation;

(m) notes the increasing importance of the psychological and social aspects of the needs of victims of armed conflict, and encourages the International Federation to advise and train National Societies in this field;

 E. With regard to the civilian population affected by famine:  

(a)  strongly condemns attempts to starve civilian populations in armed conflicts

(b)  stresses the following provisions of international humanitarian law:

- the prohibition on using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare and on attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless, for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population,

- the prohibition on attacking, destroying, removing or rendering useless any objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population,

- the general prohibition on forced displacement of the civilian population, which often causes widespread famine,

- the obligation to accept, under the conditions prescribed by international humanitarian law, impartial humanitarian relief operations for the civilian population when it lacks supplies essential to its survival

(c)  urges parties to conflict to maintain conditions in which the civilian population is able to provide for its own needs, in particular by refraining from any measure intended to cut it off from its sources of supply or access to its crops or arable land or generally depriving it of objects indispensable to its survival

 F. With regard to the civilian population deprived of water:  

(a)  stresses that water is a vital resource for victims of armed conflict and the civilian population and is in dispensable to their survival

(b)  calls upon parties to conflict to take all feasible precautions to avoid, in their military operations, all acts liable to destroy or damage water sources and systems of water supply, purification and distribution solely or primarily used by civilians

(c)  requests parties to conflict not to hinder access by the civilian population to water, and to facilitate access for the repair of water supply systems damaged by hostilities, also by ensuring the protection of personnel engaged in that task

(d)  requests every State to encourage all efforts to bring back into operation water supply, purification or distribution systems damaged by military operations

 G. With regard to anti-personnel landmines:  

(a) expresses deep concern and indignation that antipersonnel landmines kill or maim hundreds of people every week, mostly innocent and defenceless civilians, obstruct economic development and have other severe consequences for years after emplacement, which include inhibiting the return and rehabilitation of refugees and internally displaced persons and the free movement of all persons

(b) takes note of the fact that the Movement and a growing number of States, international, regional and non-governmental organizations have undertaken to work urgently for the total elimination of antipersonnel landmines

(c) noting also that the ultimate goal of States is to achieve the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines as viable alternative s are developed that significantly reduce the risk to the civilian population;

(d) welcomes the unilateral steps which some States have taken towards eliminating all types of antipersonnel landmines and the moratoria on the export of anti-personnel landmines instituted by many States, urges States that have not yet done so to take similar unilateral measures at the earliest possible date, and encourages all States to take further steps to limit transfers;

(e) regrets that the Review Conference of States party to the 1980 United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, held from 25 September to 13 October 1995, could not complete its work;

(f)  urges States party to the 1980 Convention and the Movement to redouble efforts to ensure that the resumed sessions of the above-mentioned Review Conference in 1996 result in strong and effective measures;

(g) urges all States which have not yet done so to become party to this Convention and in particular to its Protocol II on landmines, with a view to achieving universal adherence thereto, and further underlines the importance of respect for its provisions by all parties to armed conflict;

(h) urges all States and competent organizations to take concrete action to increase their support for mine-clearance efforts in affected States which will need to continue for many decades, to strengthen international cooperation and assistance in this field and, in this regard, to provide the necessary maps and information and appropriate technical and material assistance to remove or otherwise render ineffective minefields, mines and booby traps, in accordance with international law;

(i)  invites the ICRC to continue to follow these matters in consultation with the International Federation and National Societies, and to keep the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent informed;

 H. With regard to blinding and other weapons:  

(a) recalling Resolution VII of the 25th International Conference of the Red Cross concerning the work on international humanitarian law in armed conflicts at sea and on land;

(b) reaffirms that international humanitarian law must be respected in the development of weapons technology;

(c) welcomes the adoption by the above-mentioned Review Conference of a new fourth Protocol on blinding laser weapons as an important step in the development of international humanitarian law;

(d)  emphasizes the prohibition on the use or transfer of laser weapons specifically designed to cause permanent blindness;

(e)  urges States to declare themselves bound by the provisions of this Protocol at the earliest possible date and to ensure they have in place necessary national measures of implementation;

(f)  welcomes the general agreement achieved at the Review Conference that the scope of application of thi s Protocol should apply not only to international armed conflicts;

(g) requests States to consider, for example at a subsequent Review Conference, further measures on the production and stockpiling of blinding laser weapons prohibited by this Protocol and requests that other issues, such as measures concerning compliance, should be further considered;

(h) underlines that proper attention should be given to other existing conventional weapons or future weapons which may cause unnecessary suffering or have indiscriminate effects;

(i)  concerned about the threat to civilian shipping posed by free-floating naval mines, and notes that a proposal to deal with problems such as this has been under discussion;

(j)  invites the ICRC, in consultation with the International Federation and National Societies, to follow developments in these fields, in particular the expansion of the scope of application of the new fourth Protocol, and to keep the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent informed.




Related pages