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Fiji: new book shows traditional warfare subject to humanitarian rules

22-07-2009 News Release 09/145

Suva (ICRC) - A book published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and entitled Under the Protection of the Palm: Wars of Dignity in the Pacific, reveals that people in Oceania developed over centuries behaviour and rituals that protected women and children, captive warriors or stocks of food during times of war.

This finding challenges certain preconceptions relating to traditional warfare especially the perceived lack of concern for human life by traditional warriors in the Pacific. Stereotypes like the bloodthirsty, native cannibal seem to resonate more with audiences.

Willing to know more, the ICRC commissioned a group of students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) to conduct further research on the use of weapons, the protection of innocent women and children, of religious sites and other humanitarian limitations.

The Fiji Red Cross Society and the ICRC are encouraged that the results of the research show striking similarities to modern-day international humanitarian law as set out in the Geneva Conventions, which have been ratified by all the countries of the world, including the 14 island States of the Pacific.

" The aim of this book is to dispel the perception sometimes found in Pacific island countries that international humanitarian law embodies a purely Western set of values that has no link with the local tradition, " said Wylie Clarke, president of the Fiji Red Cross.

An electronic version of the publication is available for free download at   For further information, please contact:
  Josua Tuwere, ICRC Suva, tel: +679 992 11 51
  Claire Kaplun, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 244 64 26
  ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 34 43