26th International Conference 1995: Resolution 1

07-12-1995 Resolution

International Humanitarian Law: From Law to Action Report on the Follow-up to the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims

26th International Conference of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Geneva, Switzerland, 3-7 December 1995

The 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent,  

 noting with great concern the increasing number of armed conflicts taking place in various parts of the world, 

 alarmed by the gross and persistent violations of international humanitarian law that are being committed, particularly against civilians, including the most vulnerable,

 deeply concerned about the grief and suffering resulting from such violations, 

 deploring the decrease in respect for international humanitarian law,

 noting that States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and States party to the 1977 Additional Protocols have the obligation not only to respect but also to ensure respect for those Conventions and Protocols, and that all States must respect relevant customary international humanitarian law,  

 recalling that, in cases not covered by international agreements, the human person remains under the protection of the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience,

 convinced that all appropriate measures must be taken in order that all should know and understand the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law,

 recalling that the Swiss Government convened in Geneva an International Conference for the Protection of War Victims, from 30 August to 1 September 1993, and an Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the Protection of War Victims, from 23 to 27 January 1995,

 having taken note of the report of the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the Protection of War Victims,

 noting the document drawn up by the Swiss authorities on meetings of the States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions to consider general problems regarding the application of international humanitarian law (Document 95/C.I/2/3),

 stressing the importance of holding the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent at regular intervals to help improve the protection of war victims,

1.  strongly condemns the violations of international humanitarian law taking place in various parts of the world;

2.  solemnly reaffirms that every State must respect in all circumstances the relevant principles and norms of humanitarian law and that States party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and States party to the 1977 Additional Protocols must ensure respect for the Conventions and Protocols;

3.  endorses the Final Declaration of the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims , adopted on 1 September 1993, which confirms the need to reinforce implementation of and respect for international humanitarian law and which is attached to the present resolution; 4.  also endorses the Recommendations drawn up by the Intergovernmental Group of Experts ( Recommendations ), which aim at translating the Final Declaration of the Conference into concrete and effective measures and which are attached to the present Resolution;

5.  strongly urges States to implement the Recommendations addressed to them, especially by adopting appropriate measures at the national and international level and supporting international organizations working in this field, and invites them to consider further steps towards the effective protection of war victims;

6.  encourages States and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (National Societies) to organize meetings, workshops and other activities on a regional basis to enhance the understanding and implementation of international humanitarian law;

7.  recommends that the outcome of meetings convened by the Depositary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including those mentioned in Recommendation VII of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts, be transmitted to the next International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent as well as to States party to those Conventions;

8.  urges the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (International Federation) and the National Societies to carry out the tasks entrusted to them by the Recommendations and calls upon States to give them adequate support in this regard;

9. invites States to respond generously to the annual Appeal made jointly by the ICRC and the International Federation in pursuance of Recommendation VIII of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the financing of concrete dissemination projects proposed by National Societies, to support financially the dissemination component of regular relief and development programmes of the ICRC and of the International Federation, and to support domestic dissemination programmes of the National Societies of their respective countries

10. invites the ICRC, in cooperation with the International Federation, to report to the 27th International Conference on the implementation of the present resolution.


Annex I: Final declaration of the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims

The participants in the International Conference for the Protection of War Victims, held in Geneva from August 30 to September 1, 1993, solemnly declare the following:

    

 I  

1. We refuse to accept that war, violence and hatred spread throughout the world, and fundamental rights of persons are violated in an increasingly grave and systematic fashion. We refuse to accept that wounded are shown no mercy, children massacred, women raped, prisoners tortured, victims denied elementary humanitarian assistance, civilians starved as a method of warfare, obligations under international humanitarian law in territories under foreign occupation not respected, families of missing persons denied information about the fate of their relatives, populations illegally displaced, and countries laid to waste.

2. We refuse to accept that, since war has not been eradicated, obligations under international humanitarian law aimed at limiting the suffering caused by armed conflicts are constantly violated. We vigorously condemn these violations which result in a continued deterioration of the situation of persons whom the law is intended to protect.

3. We refuse to accept that civilian populations should become more and more frequently the principal victim of hostilities and acts of violence perpetrated in the course of armed conflicts, for example where they are intentionally targeted or used as human shields, and particularly when they are victims of the odious practice of " ethnic cleansing " . We are alarmed by the marked increase in acts of sexual violence directed notably against women and children and we reiterate that such acts constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law.

4. We deplore the means and methods used in the conduct of hostilities which cause heavy suffering among civilians. In that context we reaffirm our determination to apply, to clarify and, where it is deemed necessary, to consider further developing the existing law governing armed conflicts, in particular non-international ones, in order to ensure more effective protection for their victims.

5. We affirm the necessity to reinforce, in accordance with international law, the bond of solidarity that must unite mankind against the tragedy of war and in all efforts to protect the victims thereof. In that spirit, we support peaceful bilateral and multilateral initiatives aimed at easing tensions and preventing the outbreak of armed conflicts.

6. We undertake to act in cooperation with the UN and in conformity with the UN Charter to ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law in the event of genocide and other serious violations of this law.

7. We demand that measures be taken at the national, regional and international levels to allow assistance and relief personnel to carry out in all safety their mandate in favour of the victims of an armed conflict. Stressing that peace-keeping forces are bound to act in accordance with international humanitarian law, we also demand that the members of peace-keeping forces be permitted to fulfil their mandate without hindrance and that their physical integrity be respected.

    

 II  

We affirm our responsibility, in accordance with Article I common to the Geneva Conventions, to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law in order to protect the victims of war. We urge all States to make every effort to:

1. Disseminate international humanitarian law in a systematic way by teaching its rules to the general population, including incorporating them in education programmes and by increasing media awareness, so that people may assimilate that law and have the   strength to react in accordance with these rules   to violations thereof.

2. Organize the teaching of international humanitarian law in the public administrations responsible for its application and incorporate the fundamental rules in military training programmes, and military code books, handbooks and regulations, so that each combatant is aware of his or her obligation to observe and help enforce these rules.

3. Study with utmost attention practical means of promoting understanding of and respect for international humanitarian law in armed conflicts in the event that State structures disintegrate so that a State cannot discharge its obligations under that law.

4. Consider or reconsider, in order to enhance the universal character of international humanitarian law, becoming party or confirming their succession, w here appropriate, to the relevant treaties concluded since the adoption of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, in particular:

- the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts of 8 June 1977 (Protocol I)

- the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts of 8 June 1977 (Protocol II);

- the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons and its three Protocols;

- the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.

5. Adopt and implement, at the national level, all appropriate regulations, laws and measures to ensure respect for international humanitarian law applicable in the event of armed conflict and to punish violations thereof.

6. Contribute to an impartial clarification of alleged violations of international humanitarian law and, in particular, consider recognizing the competence of the International Fact-Finding Commission according to Article 90 of Protocol I mentioned in Part II, paragraph 4 of this Declaration.

7. Ensure that war crimes are duly prosecuted and do not go unpunished, and accordingly implement the provisions on the punishment of grave breaches of international humanitarian law and encourage the timely establishment of appropriate international legal machinery, and in this connection acknowledge the substantial work accomplished by the International Law Commission on an international criminal court. We reaffirm that States which violate international humanitarian law shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation.

8. Improve the coordination of emergency humanitarian actions in order to give them the necessary coherence and efficiency, provide the necessary support to the humanitarian organizations entrusted with granting protection and assistance to the victims of armed conflicts and supplying, in all impartiality, victims of armed conflicts with goods or services essential to their survival, facilitate speedy and effective relief operations by granting to those humanitarian organizations access to the affected areas, and take the appropriate measures to enhance the respect for their safety, security and integrity, in conformity with applicable rules of international humanitarian law.

9. Increase respect for the emblems of the red cross and red crescent as well as for the other emblems provided for by international humanitarian law and protecting medical personnel, objects, installations and means of transport, religious personnel and places of worship, and relief personnel, goods and convoys as defined in international humanitarian law.

10. Reaffirm and ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable during armed conflicts protecting cultural property, places of worship and the natural environment, either against attacks on the environment as such or against wanton destruction causing serious environmental damage and continue to examine the opportunity of strengthening them.

11. Ensure the effectiveness of international humanitarian law and take resolute action, in accordance with that law, against States bearing responsibility for violations of international humanitarian law with a view to terminating such violations.

12. Take advantage of the forthcoming Conference for the review of the 1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons and the three Protocols thereto, which provides a platform for wider accession to this instrument, and to consider strengthening existing law with a view to finding effective solutions to the problem of the indiscriminate mines whose explosions maim civilians in different parts of the world.

With this Declaration in mind, we reaffirm the necessity to make the implementation of international humanitarian law more effective. In this spirit, we call upon the Swiss Government to convene an open ended intergovernmental group of experts to study practical means of promoting full respect for and compliance with that law, and to prepare a report for submission to the States and to the next session of the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

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In conclusion we affirm our conviction that, by preserving a spirit of humanity in the midst of armed conflicts, international humanitarian law keeps open the road to reconciliation, facilitates the restoration of peace between the belligerents, and fosters harmony between all peoples.

 

Annex II: Meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts for the Protection of War Victims, Geneva, 23-27 January 1995 : Recommendations

Recommendations [1 ]

 I  

The Experts recommend that:

- the International Committee of the Red Cross ( " the ICRC " ) continue its dialogue with States with a view to promoting their adherence to international humanitarian law ( " IHL " ) the instruments and assisting them in dealing with issues that arise in this respect;

- the Depositaries of IHL instruments appeal to States not party to adhere to such instruments, carry out appropriate promotional activities for that purpose and publish periodically, e.g. in the International Review of the Red Cross and other public sources of information, the list of States Parties;

- in their regular programme of activities, the competent organs of the UN and other intergovernmental organizations, universal and regional, encourage States to adhere to specific IHL instruments;

- the States Parties to IHL instruments support the efforts of the ICRC, the Depositaries and the organizations mentioned above, to promote adherence to such instruments;

- the States Parties that have recognized the competence of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established under Article 90 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions ( " Protocol I " ) support, where appropriate, the Commission's efforts to promote recognition of its competence and that voluntary contributions be encouraged to increase the Commission's funds available for that purpose;

- States consider availing themselves of the services of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies ( " the National Societies " ) and national committees referred to in Chapter V in the process of adhering to pertinent IHL instruments.

    

 II  

The Experts recommend that:

- the ICRC be invited to prepare, with the assistance of experts in IHL representing various geographical regions and different legal systems, and in consultation with experts from governments and international organizations, a report on customary rules of IHL applicable in international and non-international armed conflicts, and to circulate the report to States and competent international bodies.

    

 III  

The Experts recommend that:

- the ICRC, with the assistance of National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies ( " the International Federation " ) and academic institutions, strengthen its capacity to provide advisory services to States, with their consent, in their efforts to implement and disseminate IHL;

- States and National Societies indicate to the ICRC or as appropriate, to the International Federation the specific needs they may have for such advisory services;

- the ICRC submit reports on its advisory services to the States parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and other interested bodies on an annual basis, and to the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent ( " the Conference " ).

    

 IV  

The Experts recommend that:

- the ICRC, in carrying out its mandate to disseminate IHL, work together, wherever possible, with other interested bodies including the International Federation, UN organs and specialized agencies, and regional organizations;

- States, on a regional and global basis, promote exchanges of information on dissemination and implementation of IHL;

- the ICRC prepare, in cooperation with experts from various geographical regions, a model manual for armed forces on the law of international and non-international armed conflicts;

- States produce national manuals on the law of armed conflicts, use them as an integral part of military training, and, where possible, consult among themselves with a view to harmonizing such manuals;

- States increase their efforts, at national and international levels, to train civilian and military instructors in IHL, and to train in that law the members of civilian administrations, armed forces, security forces and paramilitary forces, and members of armed forces engaged in international peacekeeping operations, according to their specific ranks and functions;

- States, where appropriate with the assistance of National Societies, increase the civilian population's awareness of IHL, thus contributing to the dissemination of a culture based on respect for the individual and human life, in all circumstances;

- States, in collaboration with National Societies, take advantage of the celebration of World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day to promote the dissemination of IHL;

- States, where appropriate with the assistance of National Societies and academic institutions involved in public education, make every effort to produce specific programmes and teaching materials designed to imbue students of all ages with the principles of IHL and make those programmes available to interested States;

- States, the ICRC, National Societies and the International Federation, encourage the production of audiovisual materials and the organization of seminars in order to heighten awareness of IHL issues among representatives of the national and international media;

the ICRC and States make efforts to provide technical assistance in order to ensure that basic documents of IHL are widely available in national languages;

the Conference note that religious and ethical values foster respect for human dignity and the principles of IHL.

    

 V  

The Experts recommend that:

- States be encouraged to create national committees, with the possible support of National Societies, to advise and assist governments in implementing and disseminating IHL;

- States be encouraged to facilitate cooperation between national committees and the ICRC in their efforts to implement and disseminate IHL;

the ICRC organize a meeting of experts from States having already established national committees and from other interested States, and report on the meeting s conclusions to States interested in the establishment of such committees.

    

 VI  

The Experts recommend that:

- States, in order to comply with their commitments in this regard under IHL instruments,

- be invited by the Conference to provide to the ICRC any information which might be of assistance to other States in their efforts to disseminate and implement IHL;

- make every effort to participate in the fullest possible exchange of information on the measures that they have taken to implement their obligations under IHL instruments;

- the ICRC, in order to facilitate these measures,

- continue to participate actively in efforts to disseminate and implement IHL;

- be encouraged to draw up guidelines, from time to time, for the purpose of enhancing the exchange of information;

- collect, assemble and transmit the information provided to States and to the Conference.

 VII  

The Experts recommend that:

- States, in order to fulfil their basic obligation to respect and ensure respect for IHL in all circumstances, and taking into account, in particular, the vulnerability of civilian populations, and the responsibility of States which violate IHL,

- act, jointly or individually, in situations of serious violations of IHL, in cooperation with the United Nations and in conformity with the United Nations Charter;

- establish, wherever possible, and in conformity with IHL, safety zones, demilitarized zones, humanitarian corridors and other forms of protection for civilian populations, in situations of armed conflict, and cooperate to ensure respect for decisions adopted by the competent UN organs to that end, in accordance with the UN Charter;

- enact and rigorously implement whatever legislation is necessary to give effect to their obligations to ensure that those who commit, or order to be committed, violations of IHL do not go unpunished and afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in criminal proceedings, including the provision of evidence and information from relevant sources, e.g. refugees;

- participate actively in the ongoing discussions within the UN on the establishment of a permanent international criminal court, and implement all national measures to ensure the functioning of the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda established by the UN Security Council;

- cooperate with relevant international and regional intergovernmental organizations and, if they so wish, the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission established under Article 90 of Protocol I, in conducting enquiries into violations of IHL, including by providing them, whenever possible, with funds, experts or logistical support;

- the Depositary organize periodical meetings of the States parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions to consider general problems regarding the application of IHL.

    

 VIII  

The Experts call upon the ICRC:

(a) to analyse measures which could ensure, inter alia ,

- universal respect for IHL, particularly as it relates to civilians who are more and more often the victims of the use of means and methods of war consisting of systematic and large-scale killings by any armed groups, of " ethnic cleansing " and of other violations of IHL in any armed conflict;

- full protection for women and children from violations of IHL, taking into account any contribution on these subjects which might be available, in particular from the 1995 World Conference on Women and from relevant UN organizations, including UNICEF and UNHCR;

- full protection of the rights of refugees and of displaced persons from violations of IHL and the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees and its Protocol, taking into account any information which might be available, in particular from UNHCR;

(b) to examine situations where State structures have disintegrated as a result of non-international armed conflicts;

(c) to examine, on the basis of first-hand information available to it, the extent to which the availability of weapons is contributing to the proliferation and aggravation of violations of IHL in armed conflicts and the deterioration of the situation of civilians

(d) to prepare, in collaboration with the International Federation, a draft recommendation for consideration by the Conference, encouraging voluntary contributions to support programmes for the dissemination and implementation of IHL, with particular emphasis on the protection of war victims.