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Iraq: ICRC calls for respect for international humanitarian law

20-03-2003 News Release 03/18

Geneva (ICRC) - Deeply concerned about the human consequences of the hostilities under way in Iraq, especially the impact of military operations on the civilian population, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) calls upon the warring parties to abide strictly by the rules and principles of international humanitarian law.

Wherever the need for its independent and impartial humanitarian action arises, the ICRC firmly intends to extend its activities in accordance with its mandate. It relies on the warring parties to facilitate its access to all persons requiring help and protection.

The ICRC reminds all States party to the Geneva Conventions of their obligation not only to respect but also to ensure respect for international humanitarian law, whose main purpose is to minimize the effects of war on people not or no longer taking part in hostilities, and to protect their lives and physical integrity.

The requirement that persons not taking part in hostilities be treated with humanity in all circumstances is a basic principle of humanitarian law. Attacks directed at civilians are prohibited, as are attacks that do not distinguish between military objectives and civilians/civilian objects. In the course of military operations, all parties are obliged to take every feasible precaution to avoid, and in any case to minimize, civilian casualties and damage to civilian property.

The warring parties have the duty to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian population are met as far as possible. They must authorize and facilitate impartial humanitarian relief operations and ensure the safety of medical and humanitarian personnel. They must see to it that the sick and wounded have access to adequate medical care. The red cross and red crescent emblems must be respected by all parties. All combatants and civilians detained must be spared and protected against abuses in all circumstances and without discrimination; they must be treated in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Geneva Conven tions.

The right to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited. Weapons having indiscriminate effects and/or causing superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering are forbidden by international humanitarian law, as are chemical and biological weapons. The ICRC also calls upon the warring parties not to use nuclear weapons.

Humanity is a founding principle of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The ICRC and the entire Movement stand ready to do their utmost to ensure that humanity prevails in the midst of violence.

 Further information:  

 Antonella Notari, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 80  

 Nada Doumani, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 244 64 14  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 79 217 32 26