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European Union: Brussels conference marks 60th anniversary of Geneva Conventions

16-09-2009 News Release 09/186

Brussels (ICRC) – To mark the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, Sweden and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are organizing a conference on how to enhance respect for international humanitarian law by non-State actors.

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union (EU).

The event will be opened in Brussels on 17 September by Princess Christina of Sweden. Speakers include Jakob Kellenberger, president of the ICRC, Joakim Stymne, Sweden's state secretary for international development cooperation, and General Henri Bentégeat, chairman of the EU Military Committee. A panel of senior representatives of EU member States and legal specialists will discuss the issue of respect for international humanitarian law by non-State actors.

" International law, including international humanitarian law, is one of the strongest tools the international community has to maintain international order and to ensure the protection and dignity of all persons, " said Mr Stymne. " The European Union will continue to do its utmost to promote an international order where no State or individual is above the law and no person is outside the protection of the law. "

" International humanitarian law remains relevant and on the whole adequate in today's armed conflicts, " said Mr Kellenberger. " However, the biggest challenge remains to achieve better compliance with the existing rules by all parties to a conflict, including non-State actors, for the sake of the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflicts. There is also a need to clarify key concepts of international humanitarian law and to examine possibilities of strengthening the treaty law applicable to non-international armed conflict, the most prevalent type of conflict nowadays. "

Mr Kellenberger also praised Sweden's role in producing the EU guidelin es on promoting compliance with international humanitarian law that were adopted in 2005. He encouraged the EU to press ahead with its efforts to ensure that the guidelines are implemented.

  For further information, please contact:
  Thomas Vanden Driessche, ICRC Brussels, tel: +32 2 286 58 70 or +32 478 24 00 51
  Malin Greenhill, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Stockholm, tel: +46 76 106 37 20
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 251 93 02