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Humanitarian organizations and international criminal tribunals, or trying to square the circle

31-03-2006 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 861, by Anne-Marie La Rosa

The fact that international criminal tribunals have become operational has undoubtedly changed the face of the global humanitarian environment. Humanitarian organizations face a very difficult dilemma: on the one hand they cannot ignore the important role of international criminal prosecution, while on the other they are reluctant to put their operations in the field at risk by being seen to co-operate in judicial proceedings. Furthermore, a categorical refusal to co-operate could lead to their being compelled to testify.


Anne-Marie La Rosa
is Legal advisor, Advisory Service, Legal Division, ICRC. The author also teaches international criminal law at the University Centre for International Humanitarian Law in Geneva 

This article looks at the role of humanitarian organizations in the context of judicial procedures in a global environment which was modified by the establishment of international criminal courts. It shows the struggles and tensions that humanitarian organizations face when, on the one hand, they bring assistance and protection to victims of armed conflicts and other situations of violence and, on the other hand, they contribute to the fight against impunity in cases of grave violations of international humanitarian law. The author suggests some elements of an operational framework which should contribute to the achievement of these difficult-to-reconcile objectives.  

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