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Peace operations: what are the responsibilities of international organizations?

19-10-2011 News Release 11/215

Brussels (ICRC) – Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia ... the peace operations of the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the African Union have been on the increase in recent years. Their objectives and the means they have employed have evolved.

What is the legal framework applicable to such organizations in this kind of context, and to what extent are these organizations liable for their actions in peace-keeping operations? These are two of the big questions facing researchers, university professors and experts from governments and international organizations at the 12th Bruges Colloquium, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the College of Europe, which will take place in the Belgian city on 20 and 21 October.

The way that international humanitarian law and international human rights law are binding on international organizations involved in peace operations, and the legal consequences of any violations for international organizations and for States contributing troops will be among the topics discussed at this year's Bruges Colloquium.

"Issues relating to the determination of an organization's liability in the framework of a peace operation are not only a matter of legal interest; they are also important politically and operationally," said François Bellon, the head of the ICRC delegation for the European Union, NATO and Belgium. "Above all, it's the protection of victims of armed conflict that is at stake, as the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda unfortunately demonstrated all too clearly."

"We are aware of the fact that different positions will be taken at the colloquium, but it is essential that clarification be provided on a number of questions relating to the legal framework applicable to the peace operations of international organizations," said Mr Bellon. "Differing interpretations of accountability weaken the reach of the law and, ultimately, the protection of conflict victims."

The ICRC and the College of Europe have held a colloquium on international humanitarian law every year since 2000, as part of their work with the European Union and NATO (additional details on:

For further information, please contact:
Thomas Vanden Driessche, ICRC Brussels, tel: +32 2 286 58 70 or +32 479 24 00 51
Angela O'Neill, College of Europe, tel: +32 50 477 122