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Belgium: experts discuss issue of legal classification of armed conflicts

21-10-2009 News Release 09/212

Brussels (ICRC) – The evolution of armed conflict and the appearance or development of new forms of violence such as organized crime, piracy and terrorism represent new challenges for international humanitarian law.

These issues associated with the classification of armed conflicts will be the focus of this year's Bruges Colloquium.

Organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the College of Europe, the 10th Bruges Colloquium will be held from 22 to 23 October. It will bring together experts from government offices, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and universities to discuss issues relating to the legal classification of armed conflicts. Various panels will discuss the typology of armed conflicts and possible links with that of other forms of armed violence, and the legal classification of armed conflicts involving multinational operations. In connection with this topic, the experts will also discuss what is denoted by " party " to an armed conflict.

" It is essential, from a legal point of view, to know if a situation of violence can be characterized as an armed conflict. Likewise, it is essential to determine who can be considered to be party to an armed conflict, " explained Françoise Krill, the head of the ICRC delegation in Brussels. " Obtaining answers to these questions is not a purely academic exercise, carried out merely to determine whether the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law are applicable. The aim, above all, is to provide the greatest possible protection for armed conflict victims – it is with this aim that the ICRC became involved in the discussions. "

The colloquium will conclude with a debate on the extent to which existing legal categories are suited to contemporary realities.

The ICRC and the College of Europe have been ho lding annual colloquiums on international humanitarian law since 2000, within the framework of their activities relating to the European Union and NATO (additional details on: www.coe-icrc.eu ).   For further information, please contact:
  Thomas Vanden Driessche, ICRC Brussels, tel: +32 2 286 58 70 or +32 478 24 00 51
  Angela O'Neil, College of Europe, tel: +32 50 477 122