The International Committee of the Red Cross and the protection of war victims
30-11-2003 Publication Ref. 0503 François Bugnion
How the ICRC is constituted, what tasks are assigned to it and what principles guide its work – these are some of the questions which the author, François Bugnion, seeks to answer, examining the tasks and role of the ICRC both from a historical and from a legal point of view.
As the founder of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and promoter of the Geneva Conventions for the protection of war victims, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been present on most battlefields for over a century.
Nevertheless, more than 130 years after its establishment the ICRC remains largely unknown.
Although everyone has heard of the "International Red Cross", the last-resort institution from which miracles are expected in times of great disasters, very few are familiar with its structure, its role and its potential for action, and even fewer are aware of the International Committee itself.
International lawyers have furthermore carefully avoided any close study of an institution which hardly fits in with their way of thinking and constantly defies classification in traditional legal categories.
How the International Committee of the Red Cross is constituted, what tasks are assigned to it and what principles guide its work - these are some of the questions which the author seeks to answer by adopting a combined historical and legal approach designed to show how the development of international humanitarian law, of which it is both promoter and trustee, mirrors and is in turn reflected in the action taken by the ICRC.
This work, written in a simple and direct style, is primarily intended for all protagonists of humanitarian action, but also for all those who are concerned about the protection of human beings amongst the horrors of war.
François Bugnion, Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Political Science, joined the ICRC in 1970. He served the institution in Israel and the occupied territories (1970-1972), Bangladesh (1973-1974) and more briefly in Turkey and Cyprus (1974), in Chad (1978) and in Viet Nam and Cambodia (1979). Since 1999, he has been Director for International Law and Communication.