ICRC President: Moving from outrage to action on civilian suffering

Speech to UNGA event on the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law

26 September 2018

New York – Speaking today at an UN General Assembly event on the protection of civilians, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, called attention to the risks of partnered operations. He urged all States supporting parties to a conflict to consider practical steps to reduce civilian suffering.

"Wars often involve partners and allies – leading to a dilution of responsibility, fragmentation of command chains and an unchecked flow of weapons. This only increases the climate of impunity and ultimately causes yet more suffering," Mr. Maurer said. "Partnering is a risky strategy, too for States – from political and reputational risks, and the danger that their support is redirected, or used in violation of IHL."

Mr. Maurer made the case that there is a need to influence belligerents in a new way. Recent ICRC research has shown that different approaches are necessary for traditional, state forces and for non-state armed groups. He outlined an agenda for action that sets out steps for states to help parties comply with the law, set up safeguards, and mitigate measures.

"Few acts of support pose a greater risk to victims of armed conflict than the provision of arms," Mr. Maurer said. "States that support parties to armed conflict must not transfer weapons if there is a clear risk of violations of international law."

Other steps Mr. Maurer included are:

  • Giving proper instruction in the rules of armed conflict;
  • Ensuring constant oversight of allies' conduct, for instance in military operations;
  • Clarifying responsibilities, on lines of authority, procedures for the protection of victims of armed conflict and communication channels;
  • Vetting recruits, including to excluding recruitment of people under 18 years of age or those who have committed violations of IHL or other serious crimes;
  • Training and supporting allies to treat detainees humanely, to provide them with judicial guarantees and allow the ICRC to visit people deprived of their liberty.

See full remarks at https://www.icrc.org/en/person/peter-maurer