Nigeria: ECOWAS member states discuss implementation of international humanitarian law

28 June 2016

Abuja (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are set to begin a four-day meeting on the implementation of international humanitarian law in the West African region.

The 13th annual review meeting aims to promote respect for IHL by ensuring both domestication and implementation of IHL treaties, including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their three Additional Protocols, as well as specific weapons treaties.

The armed violence affecting many African countries is generating massive humanitarian consequences for entire communities. "People living in the Lake Chad region and in north-east Nigeria are extremely exposed to the armed conflict as it is estimated that 2.4 million people have been displaced and 7 million people are in need of assistance," says Karl Anton Mattli, Head of Delegation in Nigeria for the International Committee of the Red Cross. He added that: "All parties to an armed conflict must respect the basic rules of IHL. In particular, civilians, wounded and the sick cannot be targeted, and medical services must be protected."

The meeting will engage participants from 15 West African States to assess the progress made in implementing the IHL instruments ratified by their countries and the challenges they faced along the way. This year, participants will include members of national IHL committees as well as national parliamentarians. A variety of topics will be discussed ranging from internal displacement and the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance for Internally Displaced Persons ("the Kampala Convention") to the Arms Trade Treaty and the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

"This collaboration with the ICRC provides the perfect backdrop for participants to share experiences in the course of implementing IHL and proffer feasible ways by which treaties related to IHL can be strengthened through the legal system," says Fatimata D. Sow, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender. "More than ever the alarming reports of rights abuses by both parties of conflicting groups in some countries of the region should create the eagerness and determination to ensure that IHL treaties are ratified, incorporated and implemented in the domestic law of ECOWAS States."

The ICRC and ECOWAS have been working together in West Africa since 2001 to ensure respect for IHL, including through domestication and implementation of IHL treaties.

For further information, please contact:
Dénes Benczédi, ICRC Abuja, tel: +234 706 418 90 02 or +234 703 595 41 68
Elodie Schindler, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 21 86 or +41 79 217 32 17