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Democratic Republic of the Congo: 5,500 army officers learn about international humanitarian law

10-08-2011 News Release 11/162

Kinshasa (ICRC) – In connection with the restructuring process currently under way in the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been invited to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law among officers.

Over a five-month period beginning in February, more than 5,500 officers and instructors of the Congolese army in North and South Kivu attended 124 ICRC-organized information sessions on compliance with international humanitarian law in military operations.

"At the sessions, we tailor the instruction to meet the needs of officers involved in military operations in the field," said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in Kinshasa. "It is very important that the reality of armed conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo be taken into account."

International humanitarian law imposes obligations on all parties to armed conflict in order to protect civilians and people no longer taking part in fighting.

"In the meetings with the country's armed forces or with armed groups, we also talk about the ICRC's neutral and impartial humanitarian activities," said Pascal Nepa, who works for the ICRC in Bukavu. "It is only when weapon bearers in the areas where we carry out our humanitarian activities know us, and understand what we do, that we are able to reach conflict victims and bring them the aid they urgently need."

The ICRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1978 and currently has 750 staff, including 80 expatriates, in the country. In addition to promoting compliance with international humanitarian law, the ICRC upgrades water supply systems, delivers emergency aid, provides support for health-care services, in particular for victims of sexual assault, and reunites families dispersed by violence. The ICRC also visits detainees and helps them to stay in contact with their families. In addition, it maintains regular dialogue with the parties to the conflict in order to help prevent assaults on the lives and dignity of civilians.

For further information, please contact:
Yves Heller, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: +243 81 700 85 36