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Switzerland: Senior officers from 60 countries work on integratinginternational humanitarian law into military operations

06-08-2007 News Release 07/89

Geneva (ICRC) – The vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Olivier Vodoz, and the commander of the Swiss armed forces, Lt-Gen Christophe Keckeis, are opening a workshop on international humanitarian law in Geneva today.

The two-week event, which will be attended by senior officers from 60 European, American, African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries, aims to promote the integration of humanitarian law into military doctrine and standard operating procedures.

In his opening address, Mr Vodoz lamented the fact that in many armed conflicts it is civilians who suffer most. He emphasized that “nothing can justify men and women, elderly people and children who have never borne arms – or combatants who have laid them down – being the primary victims in armed conflict or other situations of violence. Nothing can excuse murder, rape, looting or humiliating treatment.” He pointed out that legal standards must be converted into explicit rules and concrete action, and into orders and procedures that can be understood by all combatants.

This workshop on international rules governing military operations is intended for high-ranking officers – from lieutenant colonel to brigadier – with responsibility for training or for drawing up operating instructions, or involved in the conduct of military operations.

The ICRC vice-president insisted on the fact that “all parties to a conflict – whether they be government armed forces, non-State armed groups, security forces, police forces, gendarmeries or private military companies – are obliged to refrain from harming either the physical and mental well-being of civilians or civilian property.”

This workshop represents a new step in the efforts the ICRC has been making for 30 years to help governments and armed forces fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law. A total of 21 permanent ICRC staff mem bers are currently working towards that end with the armed forces of over 140 countries.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Vincent Lusser, ICRC Geneva, tel :+41 22 730 24 26 or +41 79 217 32 64