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Sierra Leone: parliament incorporates international humanitarian law

22-08-2012 News Release 12/168

Freetown/Conakry (ICRC) – The Sierra Leonean parliament adopted two bills today relating to international humanitarian law and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement: the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols Act, and the new Sierra Leone Red Cross Society Act, which replaces legislation dating from 1962.

"I was in Sierra Leone during the war years, so I am keenly aware of the terrible suffering endured by the civilian population," said Denise Duran, the head of the Conakry delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which covers Sierra Leone. "That's why I am particularly moved by the adoption of the Geneva Conventions Act today."

The legislation gives domestic force to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 – the main instruments of international humanitarian law, a set of rules which seek to limit the effects of armed conflict and to protect its victims. "This means that Sierra Leone undertakes to fully adhere to the rules, in particular by providing the armed forces with appropriate training and by setting out procedures for punishing violations," said Ms Duran. The adoption of the act also means that persons accused of contravening the Geneva Conventions outside the territory of Sierra Leone may be brought to trial before any Sierra Leonean court in the same manner as if they had been charged with committing the offence within the country.

The updating of the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society Act enhances the status of the society and further protects the red cross emblem against misuse. "The red cross emblem is the symbol of impartial humanitarian aid. It may not be used for any other purpose," said Ms Duran. "Sierra Leonean law now clearly affirms this."

Fifty years after the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society was created, the new legislation reinforces its role as an auxiliary to the public authorities in the event of natural disaster or other emergency, and exempts it from taxes. This new status will result in greater financial independence for the society and enhance its ability to perform its humanitarian tasks.

For further information, please contact:
Daphné Lucas, ICRC Conakry, tel: +224 63 35 13 61 or +224 63 40 88 94