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ICRC proposes stronger legal protection in armed conflict

28-11-2011 News Release 11/242

Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is proposing to strengthen the legal protection of victims of armed conflict. To this end, it is introducing a resolution at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, which opens in Geneva today.

The conference brings together representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – the world's largest humanitarian network – and of 194 States party to the Geneva Conventions.

"On the whole, international humanitarian law remains appropriate for regulating how parties to a conflict must behave," said Philip Spoerri, director for international law at the ICRC. "However, in our consultations with States prior to this conference, we identified weaknesses in the legal framework that we want to address. In particular, there is a need to improve protection for detainees in non-international armed conflict and to strengthen international mechanisms to monitor whether the rules are respected or not."

The resolution would pave the way to find the most appropriate responses to these issues and encourage all members of the International Conference to participate in further consultations.

"While detailed rules on conditions of detention exist in international armed conflicts, this is not the case in non-international conflicts – those for example in which States fight against armed opposition groups," explained Mr Spoerri. "The ICRC needs to base its efforts to ensure more humane treatment for detainees not only on humanitarian concerns but also on clear legal standards."

As for better monitoring of compliance with international humanitarian law, options include strengthening existing mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission or creating new mechanisms.

"Unfortunately, international humanitarian law is violated all too often," said Mr Spoerri. " An efficient monitoring mechanism could help prevent violations and lead to greater respect for the rules during a conflict. We hope that we can reach a consensus with all participants in the conference on these matters."

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is made up of the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and 187 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The International Conference, its highest deliberative body, meets every four years.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or + 41 79 251 93 18
Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 20 71 or +41 79 217 32 17