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Improving compliance with international humanitarian law - ICRC Expert Seminars

24-01-2008 Report

The International Committee of the Red Cross, in co-operation with other institutions and organizations, organized a series of regional expert seminars on the topic "Improving Compliance with International Humanitarian Law." The seminars were organized as part of the preparation for the 28th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Five seminars were held: in Cairo (23-24 April 2003), Pretoria (2-3 June 2003), Kuala Lumpur (9-10 June 2003), Mexico City (15-16 July 2003), and Bruges, Belgium (11-12 September 2003).

 

Each seminar followed the same agenda and participants included government experts, parliamentarians, academics, members of regional bodies, experts from nongovernmental organizations, and representatives of National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, each acting in their individual capacities as experts in international humanitarian law (IHL). This report follows the outline of the agenda questions and includes a summary of both the expert presentations on each question and the ensuing discussions by all seminar participants.

The primary objective of the seminar series was to engage experts in international humanitarian law from all regions of the world in a creative and forward-thinking discussion of ways in which Article 1 common to the four Geneva Conventions ( " common Article 1 " ), that is the States'obligation to " ensure respect " for international humanitarian law, might be operationalized. Particular attention was paid to measures for ensuring compliance that may be taken by States during armed conflict, rather than the more frequently debated subjects of pre-conflict implementation and dissemination initiatives or repressive measures, which are most frequently taken post-conflict. An emphasis was also placed on the specific problem of ensuring a better compliance with international humanitarian law by parties to noninternational armed conflicts.

Debates throughout the seminars were animated and dynamic, revealing a great interest on the part of the expert participants in the subject matter. The experts expressed appreciation to the ICRC for taking the initiative to discuss these matters, underlining that such discussions ar e both appropriate and necessary in the current context.