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Afghanistan: Law of war explained to new Afghan officers

04-07-2002 News Release 02/27

A group of 30 officers from the new Afghan army attended a talk on international humanitarian law given by ICRC delegates on 13 June at the Kabul Military Academy.

The Afghan army, which in five years'time is expected to number some 50,000 men, is being trained by the American and French forces. The French army was this year assigned to train two infantry battalions consisting of 600 men each, and accepted the ICRC's offer of awareness-raising sessions.

This first such event for the new army was organized for the officers of one battalion. (A similar presentation was made in March to a unit of presidential guards being trained by the British forces.) The delegates explained what international humanitarian law (the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols of 1977) is and related the basic rules that soldiers must observe during armed conflict (spare civilians and enemy soldiers who have been wounded or taken prisoner).

The talk had been scheduled to last one and a half hours but ended up taking almost four, such was the interest shown by the participants. Many questions were asked about the ICRC's mandate, the obligations of combatants and officers'responsibility in applying the rules. At the end of the session, one of the officers declared, " We hope we never again have to fight, but if ever we do, we undertake to respect these rules. "

" After 23 years of conflict in Afghanistan and the great suffering endured by the civilian population, it is vital for the new Afghan army to know and respect the rules of war " , said Jean-Pascal Moret, the ICRC's communication coordinator in Kabul. " We hope to organize the same type of presentation for units being trained by the American forces " .