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Afghanistan accedes to Additional Protocols I and II in historic step to limit wartime suffering

24-06-2009 News Release 129/09

Kabul/Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the accession of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts (Protocol I) and non-international armed conflicts (Protocol II).

Afghanistan's accession to the two Protocols is especially timely in that today is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Solferino, which took place in northern Italy in 1859. It was this event that prompted a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, who witnessed the suffering of tens of thousands of wounded soldiers, to call for ”societies of trained volunteers” to help care for wounded combatants on the battlefield. Dunant’s initiative led to the founding of the ICRC and to the adoption of the initial Geneva Convention in 1864.

In Afghanistan, which has suffered three decades of war and remains torn by strife, 96 per cent of all people say they have been directly or indirectly affected by the fighting, according to an ICRC survey published on 23 June. (See also: Our world. Views from Afghanistan opinion survey, 2009 - pdf file) . The country’s accession to the Additional Protocols is especially welcome in view of the extreme hardship civilians face in their homeland. In particular, the entry into force of Additional Protocol II in Afghanistan will strengthen rules that until now were based in customary rules of international law, not codified in any treaty applicable to the Afghan conflict.

The two Protocols, which supplement the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, reaffirm and develop international humanitarian law in several respects. Protocol I, which applies to international arm ed conflicts, imposes constraints on the way military operations may be conducted. Protocol II, which applies to non-international armed conflicts, considerably strengthens protection for persons not, or no longer, directly participating in hostilities and contains provisions designed to protect civilians from the dangers of military operations. It stipulates that such persons must be treated humanely in all circumstances, and it establishes important rules governing the treatment of detainees and the judicial guarantees applicable to their prosecution and punishment for criminal offences related to armed conflict.

" The Afghan Government is to be applauded for having taken this important step for its people, " said Jacques de Maio, ICRC head of operations for Afghanistan. " This will not stop the war, but it will help to improve the protection of all Afghans once the Protocols are implemented. "

The ICRC stands ready to offer its expertise to ensure that the Additional Protocols are duly incorporated into domestic legislation in Afghanistan and to encourage the government to ensure full respect for humanitarian law throughout the country.

Afghanistan's accession brings to 169 the number of States party to Additional Protocol I and to 165 the number party to Additional Protocol II.

For more information, please contact:
  Jessica Barry, ICRC Kabul, tel: ++93 700282719
  Simon Schorno, ICRC Geneva, tel.: +41 79 251 9302